Succeeding At Business Networking Events
Business networking is an effective long term strategy for building your business. To be successful at networking you must be strategic and focused. To be successful at networking, here are some tips.
Choose Events Carefully. Do not attend events just for the sake of it. Time spent at networking events should be considered an investment in marketing and tracked. First determine the value of your time. Take the amount of your desired annual salary and divide it by 2000 (the average number of hours worked in a year). For example, if your desired salary is $150,000 and if you divide by 2000 then your cost per hour is $75. When you evaluate a networking event, determine how many hours you need to invest and multiply it by your hourly rate. If an event is 3 hours, your investment would then be $225. Will you get a return on this investment by attending that networking event? If the answer is no, perhaps you should reconsider the event.
Determine `Who is Your Who` and if they will be at the Event. Take some time to write out who your ideal client is. This is your `who`. Once you know who your who is, you can decide what networking events your ideal client may be at. For example, a lot of events will not be attended by the business owners themselves, but their staff. If you need to meet the decision maker of the business, you probably don`t want to attend the events they send their staff to – find out where they go. Then go there too.
Dress for Success. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Do not blow this first impression by not dressing appropriately for the event. If you are not sure of the appropriate dress, contact the organizer.
Take an Interest in People. If you have not read Dale Carnegie`s book How to Win Friends and Influence People – you should. This book has stood the test of time because it explains how to interact with people better than almost any book out there. People love to talk about themselves. People love to hear the sound of their own names. Therefore, when networking, use people`s names often (everyone is usually wearing a name tag), and ask them open ended questions. Always practice active listening.
Quick tip: placing your nametag on your right side makes it easier for someone to see your name when shaking hands.
Quality over Quantity. Networking is about building relationships and not about making sales. Do not plan to go to a networking event to come home with a handful of business cards. It is about coming home with the right business card. It takes time for people to get to know you and trust you. Plan to go to networking events to get to build quality relationships with people, not a quantity of relationships.
Manners matter. Good manners, just like dressing appropriately, say a lot about you and how you do business. A few quick tips on manners include:
- A firm handshake.
- Introductions with your full name.
- Always stand when being introduced to someone.
- Turn your cell phone to silent and put it away for the event.
- If there is food served, elbows off the table, use utensils correctly and never push away your stacked dishes.
- Make a polite exit from conversations. You can tell them you do not want to monopolize their time, tell them you see someone you need to speak with, etc.
Follow Up. Do not throw away your investment in networking by not following up. Networking is where the conversation begins, not ends. Before your conversation with the contact ends at the event, ask your contact the best way to stay in touch. Then do it! In the 48 hours after your event reconnect with people.
Quick tip: Consider sending a card or a note with a comment about something in the conversation that was memorable. Because so few people send cards, this will likely make a memorable impact.
Another quick tip: Do not add them to your mailing list or newsletter without their permission.
Enjoy. If you do not really want to be at the event, it will be apparent. Do not harm your reputation and business with a poor networking attitude and ensure that you are sincerely enjoying the event.
Take control over your networking. Ensure you are going to the right events, meeting the right people, having meaningful and relationship building exchanges, and have a plan for follow up. If you do this right, you will be making an invaluable investment in the growth of your business.