Do you dread going to business networking events?
You’re not alone.
It can be a nerve-racking experience even for the most social of us. Many of us have concerns swirling around our minds like:
What do I wear?
Who will be there?
What do I say?
Thankfully, like most things in life, you’ll have a much better experience if you do some preparation. With that, here are some of the best ways I have found to get the most out of networking events.
Do your Homework
If you are attending an event sponsored by a business do some research on that organization and the people who work in it by visiting their website and social channels. LinkedIn is a great resource for discovering useful information about people you are going to meet.
Why are you going to networking events?
Is it to meet five new contacts? Is it to meet a specific person?
Establish your Why for attending and stick to that goal.
Things to Bring
Bring your compelling elevator speech, your business cards, a good attitude and wear appropriate attire for the event.
Things to Ditch
The hard sell.
The hard sales pitch is something that doesn’t work at networking events and will turn people off. So don’t expect to close deals while networking.
What you can expect though, if you adopt a friendly and open demeanor, is to meet people, have interesting conversations and make meaningful connections.
Bring a Friend
By arriving with a friend this can help you warm up to the environment when you first arrive. The downside of this is you might be tempted to spend most of your time with them or with other friends you meet at the event. Just remember why you came in the first place which is likely to meet new people.
Arrive On Time
This is a great way to get acquainted with the venue, the host(s) and to get a lay of the land. You’ll also be able to see people as they arrive and select who you’d like to meet first.
Arriving on time is especially helpful for introverts who can then ease into the pace and magnitude of the event as it picks up instead of arriving later to an overwhelming and energy-draining environment.
What do people like talking about most?
So ask questions.
Allow the person you are talking with to do most of the talking. This lets you learn more about them and how you might help their business. Some questions you might want to ask are:
“How did you hear about this event?”
“What keeps you busy these days?”
“What got you involved in your line of work?”
“What’s the best part of your job?”
“Who can I help you meet?”
“How can I help you with your business?”
Things like smiling, leaning in, nodding and maintaining eye contact are all good practices you should be doing while talking with someone. Probably the most important is maintaining eye contact. There’s nothing worse than speaking to someone whose eyes are darting around the room. It screams:
‘I’m trying to find someone else more important to talk with.’
A tip to maintain eye contact is to mentally note the eye colour of the person you are conversing with.
Avoid the Cell Phone Distraction
Many of us use our phones as a crutch in social situation. But excessive phone use can make you look like you’d rather be somewhere else. Try to put your phone away for the event and only bring it out if needed.
Business Card Peddling
Avoid giving out your card to everyone at the event.
That’s called spam and no one likes it.
A good rule of thumb is to give your card to those who request it or only offer it to someone you’ve made a strong connection with.
Do Your Homework Part 2
After speaking with someone, write a note about the conversation on their business card or on your digital device. It’s best to do this after the event while the information is still fresh in your mind.
Be a Good Audience
If there are speeches at the event be attentive to the speaker, avoid checking your phone and avoid whispering to those around you.
This sounds cliché but it is important to just be you and not a faux version of what you think you should be. People pick up on facades quickly and it will destroy any rapport and trust you might have built.
Smile and Have Fun
One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was to enjoy the experience even if it’s something you would not normally associate with a good time. Whether it is a job interview, giving a speech or going to a networking event be sure to just have fun and enjoy your time there.
What’s Your Take?
Now over to you. What advice do you have for networking? I’d love to hear from you. Leave your comments below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Trites is a Social Media Consultant and Owner of Knockout Social Media