Attending networking events is great for your business, but knowing how to conduct yourself to maximize the contacts that you make, and being ready to positively convey your business to other Pros is important. Do your research beforehand to find out the types of businesses in attendance, the seminars or sessions you’d like to attend and the general atmosphere of the event. If it’s a more formal event, you might want to prepare an “elevator” pitch of sorts. If it’s a less formal event, be ready to chat casually with other professionals to see how you could possibly work together.
Many networking events take place in the early evening, after you’ve most likely had a long, arduous day at work. Be sure to check your negative energy at the door, or others might sense it! Even if you feel so tired you wish you could back out, go in with an open mind. Focus your mind on the task ahead of you – meeting new people and establishing relationships. If you can, try to give yourself a bit of alone time prior to the event to re-charge whether this is listening to your favorite music driving over, or stopping for a quick coffee prior to the event and enjoying it while checking out some blog posts or recent news from the day.
Set goals before you go
People attend networking events for a variety of reasons – you could be looking to get recommendations from your peers, expand your network of referrals or identify potential partners. Setting goals for your business before the event helps you focus on building the right types of relationships. When you get the opportunity to look at the other attendees, set your goals for who you’d like to talk to and what you’d like to get out of the event. You’ll have a clearer path to getting the most benefit out of the event.
Make a great first impression
At any sort of professional event you should be trying to present yourself as someone you’d be interested in meeting. While what you say is important, body language plays a large role in how you present yourself and your business to both clients and peers. Making eye contact, giving a strong handshake and standing up straight convey confidence and interest. Try asking questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer to engage people and give them a chance to share more about themselves. These strategies will help you be memorable so your new contacts will remember you fondly after the event!
Remember to follow up
As time passes between the event and when you actually send your follow-up emails, attendees could potentially forget who you were and that they gave their email address to you. Be sure to stay top-of-mind with potential new business by following up with new contacts in a timely manner! Whether you decide to send a one-to-one email or choose to connect via LinkedIn with a personal note, remind the contact who you are and what the two of you spoke about at the event. State your intentions so the contact knows that you are serious about a potential relationship and ready to take the next step.
Talk to people who are standing alone
Ever feel a bit awkward at a networking event? Everyone has at one point or another! If you see someone standing alone, strike up a conversation. They’ll be happy to have someone to talk to, plus you won’t have to worry about breaking up a group’s conversation by approaching multiple people mid-way through and introducing yourself.
Repeat your contact’s name
While you’re speaking with someone, repeat their name back to them a few times during the conversation. It helps you to demonstrate that you’re paying attention to what your contact is saying, and you’ll remember names better that way. Two or three times per conversation should do the trick!
Welcome others into your conversations by introducing the people you’ve spoken with to others. Try it by introducing each new person you meet to at least one other person, and soon you’ll know a lot more people! Also, by being the one who connects others, people will see you as resourceful.
Personalize your encounters
The exchange of business cards is fairly standard at networking events, but you can make yourself more personable (and memorable) by writing your personal contact information on the back of your card and a quick note such as “Please be in touch!” Your new contacts are much more likely to reach out to you through your cell phone number or personal email address than they are a main company phone line.
Network, Rinse, Repeat
Networking can often be a lot like dating, so practice makes perfect! If this networking event went well, just think how many more contacts you’ll receive each time you attend another event. Networking events are a great way to grow your business and identify other vendors who could make great partners, and future friends. Keep going to events, and try to learn something new each time you attend an event to keep improving your networking skills and expanding your network!
BONUS Tip: One-on-one networking
Meeting individually with another Pro can be one of the most effective ways to make a new friend within the business. A private coffee date or lunch meeting is a great opportunity to “talk shop,” and can give you the chance to show off your portfolio and/or learn more in-depth about the other person’s company. Often, over time, a friendship will grow – I know I count other wedding industry folks among my very closest friends, and I find there’s something special about people who really understand the industry, given that it’s such a huge part of my life.
Larry’s NOTE: Remember that networking is always about building business relationships before anything else!
Thank you to the people of the Education arm of WeddingWire.com for helping to compile this list of networking tips.
Copyright © 2014 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Networking Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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