Love it or hate it, we all have to network at some point. You might be invited to the dreaded neighbour’s annual Christmas drinks party, or you’ve identified a need to promote your business at an event.
So, I’ve put together our Top 10 Tips for Networking, to ensure that you get the most out of your business networking and avoid some hazards along the way.
1. What do you want to achieve?
Are you looking to promote your products or services? Do you need to keep up to date with information, identify new suppliers, or promote your brand?
You need to research the events which are right for you and consider which events will help you achieve your objective. Identify which events are attended by the people you want to meet, or will deliver the information you need. Where are the events? What do they cost? Are they held at a convenient time for you?
You’ve identified the event/s. Now time to prepare. Can you clearly and simply explain your business, products or services to someone, so you can answer the question ‘What do you do?’ Practice it, so it rolls of the tongue. Ensure you have business cards which are up to date and that you dress appropriately for the event.
4. The Arrival
Arrive in good time, turn your phone to vibrate and if there is a guest list, go through it to identify people you would like to meet. Don’t forget to put on your badge, so people who may want to speak to you, can find you.
5. Make an approach
Firstly hold back, scan the room and identify who you’d like to approach. Enjoy queuing as some of the most useful conversations are struck up in the coffee queue. Also, be a saviour. If someone is shy, on their own and fiddling with their phone, go up and introduce yourself. ‘What do you do?’ is a simple conversation-opener, as people are usually comfortable talking about themselves. They may turn out to be your most valuable contact at the event.
6. The Dos
Do listen. This is how you pick up useful information and can find connections to engage in conversation. Do focus on how you can help the person you’re talking to and do make sure you network with just a handful of selected people. Don’t try to network with the whole room.
7. The Don’ts
Don’t monopolise the conversation, take calls, or rubber-neck over people’s shoulders to try and identify someone more interesting. Just rude.
8. The Bore
Yes. The bore. There’s always one in the room. If you get cornered by a bore remember a) they are only interested in themselves b) they have thick skins and c) have evolved an ability to breathe through their nose whilst continuing to talk at you.
It’s your valuable time they’re wasting. Be firm. Be polite. “There is someone else I need to speak to.” “I must circulate.” “I need to grab another coffee.” Say anything to get away.
Do follow up with those you’ve made a good connection with. Do it in the next day or so and think of how you might develop the connection. Suggest a meeting, or send them a link to something that could be of interest. Develop the relationship.
Take time out to evaluate your networking. Was the event right for you? Did you achieve what you set out to do? How would you adjust the way you networked?
So, with a bit of foresight and preparation, you’ll achieve even more next time.
Emma Finn is Director of Pathfinder East Ltd