The purpose of networking is to share best practice, helpful tips and advice with others in your area of expertise, it’s great to create referrals for people in business and make recommendations for other businesses. Networking can also increase your opportunities of progressing your career or getting more clients for your business.
Love it or hate it, as a business owner or in your professional life there will be times where you will have to accept that invitation to an event where you will have to be prepared to network with others.
Have a goal
Consider what your purpose is of attending the networking event is, what do you want to leave the event with? Is it more knowledge, to make as many contacts as possible, to find an individual with a particular business to meet a need, or simply to meet some others in your situation?
Do your research – who will be there? Who do you want to make connections with?
If the event organiser has distributed an attendee list, have a look through and do your research, who do you want to meet and why? How will you know who they are when you get there, could you email them or connect with them on LinkedIn prior to the event to pre-empt your conversation?
A good firm handshake is a universal sign of strength and assuredness which is why everyone should have one. A firm, but not crushing, handshake is said to be a sign of mutual respect from both parties. How would you describe your handshake?
Imagine you are in a lift with someone you always wanted to meet and make an impression on and they ask; “So, what do you do?”. You need to answer this in 20-30 seconds before the lift reaches their floor and they get out. If you can’t do this, then think about what your elevator pitch is to grab someone’s interest immediately and keep them talking to you!
Business Cards / LinkedIn profile
Take your business cards with you if you have some. Some events will give you a plastic badge that you can slot your business card into instead of wearing a name badge. Don’t just hand your cards out to everyone you meet; who do you want to connect with afterwards where the exchange of business cards will help you to get in contact. If you have the LinkedIn app this is a great tool to connect with others if you don’t have business cards. Let others scan your LinkedIn code and request a connection.
Step out of your comfort zone
By doing something out of your comfort zone, you’ll learn from it and you never know, you might even enjoy it and want to do it again! If it doesn’t quite go as you planned, that’s okay, reflect on it and when you go to your next event make changes to ensure you get what you want from it.
There will be others in your situation – say it’s your first time
If it’s your first time, don’t be afraid to say it out loud to someone, it might be their first time too and with that you have broken the ice and found something in common with them that you can build on.
Ask open questions, (who, what, when, where), to get to know your fellow networkers. This will let them open up about themselves and will take a bit of the pressure and focus off you while you get more comfortable in your environment.
Put on your best face and smile – this will help you to feel more confident and will help to make you more approachable to others
However you feel about networking, whether it’s your 1st, 5th, or 50th, event, one thing you can be sure about is that there will be other people there who are in exactly the situation with the same feelings as you!