Networking events are great ways to build on your business by meeting new individuals within your field, especially if you are a start up business or freelancer. They are basically a formal party, whereby you mingle, drink (adult drinks) and get to know people you wouldn’t normally meet. The idea is that you attend a networking event relevant to your industry. Networking events are the ideal place to build on your networking and communication skills, find new employers and employees, be updated with the latest business, connect with potential colleagues or partners and be motivated by other professionals in your field.
Before the event.
Try to be selective of the events you attend as they are expensive, just remember you can always make more money, but you can never get your time back. Make sure you always dress the part i.e. look professional when you attend networking events. A good tip I learnt is to wear something that will be a great conversational starter, such as an interesting tie or a bright handbag (not cheap looking mind you). Have the mindset that you are not going to meet everyone in the room, and that coming out with one solid connection is far better than twenty business cards that are just going to gather dust.
You will need to give out business cards during the event, so make sure you have at least fifteen shiny new ones, stored in a professional-looking business card holder. Remember you are not to just give them away willy nilly – only give them to people you have fully connected with and plan on doing again soon.
During the event.
Your businesses or your personal marketing message to each connection should be short, sweet and memorable. There’s no use rehearsing a huge speech that will sound too formal and rehearsed when you say it, plus they will probably lose interest.
Take notes after each conversation during that awkward time when you are standing by yourself, trying to look in control but not really knowing where you want to go or who you want to talk to next. Go to the edge of the room, or the bar and write down, on your phone or on the back of their business card, who you just spoke to and important details of what you spoke about.
When you introduce yourself to someone new.
- Make eye contact, smile and say ‘hello’
- State your first and last name
- Shake hands firmly for 1-3 shake
To remember what their name is, you will need to identify your learning style:
- If you are a visual learner, try to imagine their name written across their forehead.
- If you are a listening learner: use their name a few times in the conversation.
- If you are a written learner: make sure to get their business card and write something about them or the conversation you had on it.
Don’t do a ‘house bunny’ and repeat their name in a weird voice. Just don’t.
Remember the best introductions from other networkers you meet and then tweak slightly them to make them your own.
Have some good questions in your pocket ready to wip out after a four-second silence, or find the ‘latch’ on the last topic and expand on it. The best questions are open-ended, not yes/no answers.
You need to always bring something to the table, don’t just sell yourself and your business – consider how your skills and experience can help solve others business problems or inspire others. Make sure that when you are having a conversation, it isn’t one-sided i.e. one person doing all the work. It should be a balance between talking and listening, and personal and work.
After the event.
Follow up with your new connections 24 hours after the event with an email. Personalise the email with details of your conversation, how much you enjoyed meeting them and even invite them to connect on Linkedin with you.
And of course, you are probably starving from eating ‘delicately’, so go eat that well deserved cold slice of pizza in the fridge.
Networking is a fabulous tool, and by remembering the three P’s: Prepare, Professional and Proactive – you are sure to succeed with them!