Five Tips for Effective Networking
Networking, whether you're trying to develop your personal career or forge new business relationships, has become even more critical as online social networking becomes the norm. “Networking” is a buzzword that many of us have a serious love/hate relationship with. While we all want to expand our network by meeting new people in our industry, meeting them can often feel like a very awkward first date.
At the Chamber of Commerce we like to encourage networking but before you attend our next networking event, maybe have a look at our Top 5 Tips for effective networking…
1. KNOW YOUR GOALS: Having a clear goal in mind will lead to more authentic connections. Do you want to spread awareness about a new project you’restarting? Do you want to meet an industry leader who can become a valuable mentor? Do you want to find potential new hires for open positions at your company?
Ask yourself: “Who do I want to meet, and why?” If you are attending a chamber event, you can contact us to get the event's attendee list and other events that use registration platforms will sometimes have the list available on the registration page. Take some time to scan these lists and if you see a person or company on the list you’d like to connect with then do some research. Look up the guest's LinkedIn profile to learn a little bit more about them so you can seek them out at the event or check out the company’s website to get a clearer understanding of their services.
2. BE INTERESTED: One of the most important things to remember when it comes to networking is that it is a two-way street. This means that when ever you meet someone, you need to ask them as much as possible about their business, as well as informing them about yours. Always begin the conversion with the basics – your name, company, and position. Following the introductions and exchanging of basic information, you could ask some more probing questions like: What products or services does their company offer? Who are their clients? And what makes them different from their competition?
Showing genuine interest in another person and their business can say more about you than talking about yourself could, and hopefully, this should open them up to questions about you and your business.
3.KNOW HOW TO START A CONVERSATION: Read up on industry news and trends beforehand so you’ll be prepared to spark conversation and ask for their thoughts on topics that are interesting to others at the event. By checking out a few prominent blogs and scanning industry news, you will feel much more confident approaching individuals and groups. This is especially true if the event is targeted at industries outside of your area of expertise.
If you are alone at an event start out by identifying and introducing yourself to one person who is also flying solo and looking for someone to talk to. Your first connection at an event is your gateway to meeting more people. Maybe they came with friends they can introduce you to, or maybe you'll decide to break into bigger groups together. Whoever you approach first, you can relieve some of the awkwardness with relevant conversation starters to get into the swing of things together.
4.KNOW HOW AND WHEN TO MAKE AN EXIT:Now that we have mastered the task of initiating a conversation at a networking event, we can find ourselves ‘stuck’ in a discussion out of fear of appearing rude. Ending a conversation can be equally as tough as initiating one so if you’re at a loss about how to politely end conversations at a networking event, here are a few examples that you could try:
Shift your Focus:An easy exit strategy is to shift your focus elsewhere. Tell the person that you need to say hello to someone else, just be honest that you feel you need to work the room some more, they’ll understand as they’re there to network too.
Make an Introduction: Introduce a friend or other contact to the conversation, you may be doing them a favour by creating a bit of an ice breaker. Once they are talking you can suggest that you leave them to it and move on.
if all else fails…
Go for a Top up:There are usually refreshments at networking events, so if you’re at a loss about how to end your conversation, you can always just tell them you’re off to get a top up.
5.ALWAYS FOLLOW UP: A networking event is just the jumping-off point for starting a new professional relationship — your follow-up is the key to developing it. And since the clock starts ticking as soon as you meet, it’s best to follow up with an email within 24 hours. Use your email to secure a ‘second date’ at which you can further solidify your professional relationship and continue to discuss possible projects.
What if you meet someone you like or find interesting but have no projects, mutual friends, or upcoming events to connect with about? Strike while the iron's hot and follow up anyway! You never know who you may want advice or guidance from in the future. To build a strong relationship, it's always good to. Chances are, you got their business card or can find one of them via social media. Follow up with a personal tid-bit from your conversation; they will appreciate the gesture and remember you in the future.
Have you got a networking event coming up?;Did you find these tips helpful or maybe you have some tips you can add? Please let us know in the comments section below.