Attending a networking event may fill you with dread, especially if you’re not a naturally confident person, but in order to push your business or even your own career, it is essential that you harness the skills to communicate and navigate the world of networking to become a success. Networking events provide us with the opportunity to meet like-minded people and market our business more naturally than by advertising.
Here are a few points to note for successful networking as a start-up:
Do your Research
Before you book yourself onto any networking event, ensure that you’re doing it for the right reasons. It’s easy to just go in and not really know what to do or how to act, without a pre-thought as to what you actually want to get out of it.
Networking is not for everyone, so access what it is that you want to achieve by going to the event.
When you’re aware of what you would like to gain from networking, you will not appear vague during conversations, and you’ll be able to steer the conversation more naturally.
Whether you’re seeking a mentor to guide your business to success, or finding out specific information from a company to help grow your company. Try to break away from opening questions that will fall flat are after a few minutes and if you have a list of attendees prior to the event, see if you can do some research into their general interests and hobbies so that you’re more likely to have a deeper conversation.
Business cards are an essential element to help you gain interest in your business, and enable people to follow you up easily rather than having to search the internet for your name or company.
Make your business cards easily accessible, and ensure they’re up to date with your full list of contact details. Not everyone wants to pick up the phone, so include your email, social sites and any other relevant information about your business. This way when it comes to connecting with you, they can do this in the most natural way for them, rather than being forced out of their comfort zone on first contact.
If you’re not offered a business card whilst talking, just ask. It sounds simple but don’t be afraid of showing a keen interest in them or their business. Everyone is using business cards now, and it makes it far easier for a relationship to continue after the event, than the risk of losing an interested person.
Open Up to Opportunities
Even if you’re quite happy with the way your business is growing or the way your career is developing, you simply never know the connections you may find at a networking event.
Just because you’re happy where you are right now, doesn’t mean that you won’t need any help at a later date. Plus you may find new contacts for other purposes that are going to benefit you.
From finding future collaborators to finding funding for your projects, be open to the endless opportunities that networking may offer you.
Dress to Impress
When you’ve taken the time to put yourself out there at an event, make every effort to represent yourself or your business in the best possible light.
We never like to judge a book by its cover, but if you want a professional to back your business you need to show them that you’re serious and that you take the utmost care when it comes to every element of your business, including how you dress. Mind your manners and dress smartly as if it was a job interview. Keep eye contact and try your best to make a good impression, as you and your business are on show.
Rather than asking probing questions that may intimidate people, try to be personable and approachable.
Although you’re all there to talk business, it doesn’t hurt to take a keen interest in other areas of their life. After all we all buy into ideas or products that we feel a connection with, and we always remember the people we like. So increase your likability and spend time taking a personal approach.
Don’t put yourself or your business plan at the beginning of every conversation and take the time to listen to others.
It’s very easy to get caught up in wanting to target the people you feel can help you, but don’t just make it all about them. Navigate your way around the event and take the time to talk to everyone and get an understanding for what others are here for.
Remember that there are many people to talk to from all walks of life that you may learn something from each of them. Don’t monopolise peoples time and be accepting that there are lots of people wanting learn just as much as you do.
Follow it up
Once you’ve finished a networking event and found people that you truly connect with, on a personal or a professional level, it’s common practice to add them on LinkedIn.
Don’t be dismissive of those that perhaps cannot offer you anything immediately, as if they ever change their position, they could be instrumental in helping you with your own success.
Whether it’s a call or an email, follow-up and continue the conversation.
Networking is not just about how many business cards you manage to hand out, it’s about the lasting impression and the way you make people feel.
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