When you arrive at a networking event, avoid gravitating to people you know. You should initially acknowledge the host and then immediately find someone new to introduce yourself to. Networking is about making new connections too. This will help keep you in the right frame of mind as to why you came.
When attending small business networking events, one might think that they should go around and talk to as many people as time allows. Traditional business advice says that you should get your business information in as many hands as possible. Unfortunately, that advice is misguided, because the goal of networking is to build meaningful relationships which lead to trust. You cannot build trust in relationships and friendship with others if your only goal is to talk about yourself and pass out business cards.
Sit with someone you do not know. Initiate conversation with someone who is standing by themselves. They’ll be happy to have someone to talk to them and, as a result, will many times open up with valuable information.
My Facebook friend, Greg S. Reid, once said, “Be the ‘first’ to say hello – your smile and openness may inspire them to do the same.” A sincere smile can light up the room!
Networking is an opportunity to build new, meaningful relationships and to build rapport. It’s about people.
The best business networking groups operate as exchanges of business information, ideas, and support. The most important skill for effective business networking is listening; focusing on how you can help the person you are listening to rather than on how he or she can help you is the first step to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship.
Did you know that the most important thing in listening is to “hear” what “Isn’t being said?” Listen to the details of what your new “friend” requires. How can you help? Ask questions! The person who is asking the questions is in control of the conversation. Good networking questions are engaging and thought-provoking. They help you connect with people at a much deeper level.
The relationship comes first. Rather than boring a new contact with information all about yourself, spend your time asking them questions. It’s amazing how much you’ll learn! Get to know your new friend as a person. BE the spark in your new friendship!
Information is more willingly received if it is requested. Design some of your questions to them that will make them curious about asking questions of you.
Always keep one hand free to allow yourself to shake hands with people. This means that you shouldn’t eat and drink at the same time. Remember, you are there to network, not to stuff your face and miss out on opportunity. Hold your cold drink in your left hand if you are right-handed. This keeps the handshake from being a “cold shake.”
“You may find the relationships you form with your referral sources even more important than the dollars your new customers bring you.” – Ivan Misner, BNI’s Founder & Chairman
NOTE: To order a copy of Ivan’s newest book, “Network Like a Pro” click here!
First, build the relationship. Get to know a couple of people a little bit better at each event. This often leads to us getting together one-on-one later to really begin to build the relationship. Second, focus on finding 2 or 3 people to help. This can take many forms. You might be able to refer them to someone else at the same meeting.
Immediately after the event – preferably the next day – send a handwritten note to the people you met only if they are someone you would like to stay in contact with. Mention something from your conversation that will help them remember you and express your interest in keeping in contact. Always include a business card in your note.
People do business with and refer people to those that they know and trust. People don’t like to be talked at or sold to. While some may be polite and listen to your detailed advertising tirades, the likelihood of a follow-up is practically nonexistent.
Networking is about building relationships in a strong network; it is not about collecting business cards or making sales presentations. Therefore the best networking tips to remember are to be authentic, be professional, and be selfless.
So. . . at your next networking event, focus on meeting new people and building new relationships. Remember to s-m-i-l-e!
Copyright © 2009 – Larry James. Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. His latest book is, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Visit Larry’s “Networking HQ” Website; articles, tips, networking books and more!
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