By: Sylvia Pond
Have you ever attended a networking event and felt out of place, or left feeling like it was a waste of time? Networking can be intimidating and unrewarding for some, but it doesn’t have to be. There are ways to make meaningful connections, and gain clients.
I have firsthand experience with an invaluable amount of networking, so I thought I would share some tips you might want to consider before attending your next networking event.
1. Let go of your nerves. Yes, walking into a room full of people you don’t know can be intimidating, especially if you are an introvert. The easiest way to deal with this is to arrange going to the event with a friend/colleague who is an experienced networker and might know some people in the room. Ask that person to introduce you to people who might compliment your business and expand your network. But don’t be glued to their side for the whole event. Once you are a little more comfortable, try making your own introductions.
2. Be clear. Be able to articulate clearly what you do and why, for whom, and what makes your doing it so special.
3. Collect business cards. Business cards are still a very effective tool for exchanging information in a simple manner at an event. Don’t be afraid to ask for one from everyone you meet.
4. Follow up. Networking doesn’t end when you go home after an event. Following up is really important. Go through all the business cards you collected and connect with each person via social media. This could mean Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ etc. Personally get in touch with the connections who made a bigger impact on you. Set up a one-on-one coffee meeting to foster that relationship further.
5. Get involved. Join a networking group. Not just any networking group, but the right group for you. There are also things to consider like, cost, time commitment, and fit. But being a member of the right group can have several advantages for you and your business growth. From education, to referrals, and so much in-between. Also consider volunteering within networking and business organizations. This is also a great way to showcase your skills and grow your networking connections on a more personal level.
6. What to talk about? The most common question you will ask, and be asked, at a networking event is “what do you do?” Does that conversation get lost with the answers that 15-20 other people gave you? Probably. So be memorable. Talk about more than business. Connect about other interests, community, and even hobbies. Ask great questions and consider how you might be able to help others. Treat networking conversations like you would friendship conversations. Build rapport, build trust, and the business will come.