Best Practices: NetworkingNetworking is one of the best ways you can grow your business – if you do it right.
We’ve all met those people at networking events who – instead of connecting with you as a human being – spit out a prepared spiel full of jargon that makes your eyes glaze over. By the time they finish their speech (having not really listened or engaged with you), they collect your business card, hand you theirs, and rush off to repeat the dreadful procedure.
The following tips are sure to authentically increase your network and decrease your networking “work.”
- Be clear on what you’d ideally like to get out of the event (speaking engagements, introductions, joint venture partners, etc.). Going to sell your services or to add tons of (unwilling) people to your email list is gauche and obnoxious. Don’t expect people to buy from you immediately – networking is about forging relationships. To be clear – DO NOT add these people to your email list. Giving you their business card is NOT giving you permission to subscribe them to your ezine. This is my biggest networking peeve and it will ruin any chance of me wanting to form a relationship with you – and I guarantee I’m not the only one.
- Know who you are, what you offer, AND HOW TO SAY IT IN PLAIN ENGLISH. I cannot stress this enough. It is very useful to have a prepared “elevator speech” (i.e. 1-2 sentences that explain what you do and what you’re looking for), but you are not expected to be an actor who’s memorized all their lines. It’s much better to stumble over your words and say something that prompts interest and engagement than to have a “perfect pitch” that means nothing to a normal person. (No, you’re not normal, you’re an entrepreneur!) The goal of an elevator speech is to create interest – not to confuse or bore your listener.
- Make sure you have everything you need ahead of time. I like to have rubber bands and clear, zippered plastic bags to collect business cards in when I’m doing a multi-day event. That way you can keep the cards straight and remember who you met and when. (It’s much easier to place a name when you know you met them at Friday’s networking dinner than just having a random pile of cards!)
At the Event:
- Since you’ve done your preparation, when you go to the event, STOP FOCUSING ON YOURSELF! Engage with other people, and pay full attention to the people you meet. You don’t have to spend a lengthy amount of time with any one person or group, but be fully present while you’re with them. If you’re worried about getting caught in a never-ending conversation, practice a polite exit line in advance such as: “It’s been nice getting to know you, I hope to connect with you more in the future.” (Most people will take the hint.)
- Unless you’re taking down information they’re giving you, don’t write on people’s business cards then and there. Surely, you can remember things until you get to your car. If not, practice; at least you should be able to hold off until you finish the conversation. In some cultures, writing on someone’s business card is considered a huge insult.
- Look for ways to make connections for other people. Play the game of “How many people can I help today?” and give without expectation of reciprocation. This establishes trust and begins a relationship. Obviously, don’t be a doormat and ignore your own needs, but when you network with a giving attitude, you’ll end up with a lot more quality connections.
- **Bonus tip** Make those connections immediately (send a quick email, make a 2-minute phone call, etc.). Do not go home with a list of homework for yourself – you’re much more likely to forget and that quickly ruins any trust you’ve started to build….
- Do I really need to say it? If you’re not going to follow up, you may as well skip the networking.
- AND, once again: DO NOT subscribe your new contacts to your email list!! Giving you their business card is NOT giving you permission to subscribe them to your ezine!
© 2014 Ariana Ayu
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