• Be prepared! Have plenty of business cards and arrive in good time.
Have your name badge where it can be seen, so when someone shakes your hand, it can be read easily.
• If you feel nervous, plan to go along with someone BUT only as far as the door!
Set yourself a goal of meeting 5 new people and challenge yourself to achieve this.
Don’t use Networking Events as gossip time with old friends, your time is valuable; make sure your get a return on your investment.
• SMILE! And remember your body language – folded arms don’t give the right impression! Be open and friendly, approachable and honest. Everyone is nervous so be positive. Respect comfort zones but focus on the person that you are talking to – DO NOT look over their shoulder to see who else is in the room.
• Ask your host to introduce you to some new people. Have conversation openers in mind, perhaps prepare 3 things to talk about or a few questions to ask to get the ball rolling. Good subjects are current affairs (but non-confrontational), holidays, hobbies and sport, family and even the weather. Or, consider asking ‘How did you get started in your business?’ or ‘What are your key challenges?’ Look for open groups to join, people are there to meet people so don’t be embarrassed to approach someone new and simply say ‘Hi’.
• Communicate! Ask open questions and show an interest. Networking is about building rapport and contacts. Prepare a 30 second opener about yourself and what you do. Be clear and know your USP’s!! Practice beforehand so you get the message over that you want to give, but above all be natural. Open the door for others to ask you questions.
• There will be a natural time in the conversation to exchange business cards, don’t be overbearing and too quick to give your card to someone. Another way is to ask for someone’s card, that way they will ask for yours too. When you are offered a card, take it and look at it – don’t just stuff it away!
• If you can, introduce contacts to other fellow networkers, networking is all about building contacts, so do introduce people, it will also raise your profile as a good networker and a powerful resource to others.
• MOST IMPORTANTLY...People do business with those they trust and this can take time. Your networking should focus on you becoming a trusted person, be prepared to get to know people and let them get to know you.
AND FINALLY....Move on politely!! Remember you are there to build contacts and meet new people so don’t spend the whole event talking to just one person! If you feel that it’s time to move on, try to introduce your contact to someone else before you leave, or move on politely and say ’ I’ve really enjoyed meeting you’.
• AFTER THE EVENT... Remember to be pro-active about keeping in touch, and look forward to the next time.