What’s the secret to networking properly? A question that many find themselves asking the night before a big event.
With so many professionals in the same place it is little surprise that networking events – be it a ‘power breakfast’, ‘informal meet and greet’ or ‘speed networking’ – gulp – can be daunting experiences for many professionals.
Done properly, a networking event can bring about many benefits for you individually and for the company you work for. These 9 tips below will help you navigate your way across the networking dancefloor.
1. Always be yourself
Networking events give you a great opportunity to build professional relationships. Make sure that you don’t find yourself pretending to be the person you think everyone in the room wants to meet. Be yourself and relax, if you connect with just one person being honest to yourself, this will be one connection that stands a good chance of lasting.
Networking properly is a skill and one that, like every other business skill, requires practice. Try and practice your introduction at work to colleagues that you might not be overly familiar with. Making effective small talk and coming across professionally does not come easily for some so there is no shame in practicing.
3. Get involved
When you are at a networking event remember that everyone else is in the same boat as you, you’re all there for the same reason. If you spot a group of people talking, wait for a break in the conversation and politely introduce yourself. In most instances everyone will welcome your addition to the conversation as it represents another possible connection.
4. Ask questions
This may sound obvious but asking insightful and meaningful questions is sometimes forgotten by many people at networking events. Establish common ground and ask questions that allow the other person to respond. And don’t forget to…
Listen and digest the responses you get to your questions, don’t just ask questions with no intention of analysing their responses. Walk away from your conversations with as much information as you can; this will allow you to impress in any follow up emails/telephone calls.
6. Take notes
If you struggle to retain lots of information from detailed conversations, taking notes quickly after every conversation will help. Ask for their business card and quickly jot down anything you deem important. This ultimately helps you be more specific when contacting them again after the networking event and clearly demonstrates that you listened and valued their time.
7. Quality rather than quantity
Don’t fall into the mind-set that you have to work the room and hand your card over to everyone there. You will quickly get found out when you take this approach. Be realistic when networking, you are not going to connect with everyone – this simply isn’t feasible. Instead focus your efforts on making solid and meaningful connections that are memorable for both people involved.
8. Leave the event properly
There is no need to stay at networking events for the full allotted time. If you find that the event has served its purpose make sure you leave professionally. Thank who ever organised the events and also thank the people you connected well with for their time. While doing this let them know your intentions to follow up your interest with a brief telephone call. People will remember this and they will look forward to hearing from you again.
9. Follow up
As mentioned above you should follow up the conversations you had as soon as possible while it is still fresh in both parties’ memory. Show how much you listened and how much you took from your brief time together. A meaningful follow up conversation is what could solidify and cement your business relationship.