Networking can seem daunting, but really it’s just about getting out there, chatting to people and spreading the word about your brand. Find out how to network and get results, with my guide to successful business networking.
Find the right events
Research the different networking events available in your area to get an idea of their approach and a feel for how they work. Some events can simply be casual meet ups, whereas others are more formal gatherings with a large number of attendees. It can sometimes be a case of trial and error searching for an event with the right energy for you that’s also relevant to your business.
Be genuine and smile
It can be scary approaching people you don’t know, especially when they’re high-flying business types. The trick is to take the human approach. Not sure what to say? Keep it simple and ask their name or line of business. People respond well to questions about themselves – and remember that they’re also there to make new contacts – so a friendly smile and a straightforward question are all it takes to break the ice. Here are a few good ‘icebreaker’ questions:
- What do most enjoy about what you do?
- How did get involved in…..?
- Where else do you network?
What do you want to achieve from a networking event? Before you arrive, make sure you have these goals in mind and pledge not to leave until you’ve achieved them. These don’t have to be too ambitious; perhaps promise yourself that at a minimum, you’ll have two quality conversations (not just surface conversations), or hand out five business cards to people you’ve spoken to. Arrive at your event with the mindset that you’re there to build relationships and trust with others.
Have a clear and well-designed business card to share
A business card is a must-have. Always have your card handy, whether you’re officially ‘networking’ or simply out and about: you never know who you’ll meet! Keep your business card simple and to-the-point; it needs to say what you do and ideally reflect your brand identity, as well as containing your name and contact details. Successful business networking is give-and-take, so aim to collect others’ cards, too. You never know when you’ll need a graphic designer, IT technician or logistics expert to help you do your job more effectively. Also, take time before the event to update your social media pages, ensure that you include your social handles on your business cards, and follow back all of your new connections so that you can keep in touch.
Arrive at events early and circulate
Attending a networking event puts you in professional mode. Don’t be late! As well as making a poor impression, it will also cut down on the number of people you can meet. However interesting a conversation you get into, always try to circulate so that you work the whole room. You can always follow up on that promising discussion using their contact details, after the event.
Follow up quickly after the event
People have short memories, so it’s important to jump in quickly after a networking event and follow up on any contacts you’d like to stay in touch with. Follow their social media pages, make contact on LinkedIn or send a quick email to cement yourself in their minds. Consider arranging 1 to 1’s to build trust and discover their aspirations. Successful networking in business doesn’t end after the event – it’s important to build relationships so that when people require your services, they’ll think of you.