Networking is one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways to win new business, but what’s the point in giving up an evening to go to a networking event if you fail to make any meaningful connections?
Truth be told, many of us dread networking - but like anything else, it's a skill to work on, a muscle to build.
Luckily, we've got a few tricks up our sleeve to help you make sure it's worth the trip...
1. Connect with other people who have signed up ahead of the event – you can do this on Facebook / Meetup / LinkedIn. Just say ‘Hey. I’m going to the X event too. Look forward to meeting you. Have you been in X industry long?’ Then when you get to the event, there are already a few familiar faces and it’s easy to approach them.
2. Get a photo on your business cards – most of the people who attend networking events are on the circuit, meeting new contacts all the time. The chances are, they’ll look at your card in month and have no recollection of who you are. Make sure you’re the person they can’t forget with a photo on your business card!
3. Wear something that stands out – quirky tie, bright coloured dress, flat cap, whatever makes you that bit more memorable all helps in building your personal brand and helping you to stand out above the crowd.
4. Be the first one there – so you can talk to the organisers. They can introduce you to other people, and by being around the organisers, other guests will assume you’re a regular and one of the more influential guests at the event.
5. When you speak to people, do more listening than talking – the whole purpose of networking is to build trust, in the hope that it will eventually lead to a business relationship. To build trust with someone, you need to listen to them – I mean, really listen! Home in on what their needs are, and try your best to be of value to them. Whether you end up working with them or not, practise the skill of active listening, and treat them as if they were your best friend that you’re trying to help. People will forget what you say, but they never forget how you make them feel.
6. Have your elevator pitch ready – when it’s your turn to speak, make sure you have your elevator pitch ready to go. Getting the right message across about your business, and more importantly, the story and values behind your business, is critical for determining whether that relationship will continue after your initial meeting.
7. Move on if you find yourself stuck with the wrong contact – it happens! You don’t have much time and you need to make the most of the networking opportunity, so just politely say ‘Hey, it’s been great talking to you and I'd love to keep in touch, but I better go work the room – that’s what I’m here for!’
8. Don’t just give out your card, take theirs – make sure you’re in control of the exchange so you can follow up straight away. If you only give out your card, you’ll probably never hear from them.
9. Follow up – that night, or the next day, no later. Call or email them with some suggested dates for a meeting. If you don’t hear back from your follow-up email, you can gently chase another 2-3 weeks later.
10. Add them to your database/CRM – get them signed up to receive your monthly newsletter so they become a permanent member of your network. If you’re not doing business together yet, perhaps you will work together in the future.
This article was written by Carrie Swift, Founder & CEO of Fearless.