One of the networking tips that I never received from my peers is how the heck you handle networking events. These get-togethers are the backbone of networking basics, but advice on how to handle these awkward situations was never brought to my attention.
Networking events can be daunting and intimidating. Especially if you’re new to the entrepreneurial scene, it can be hard to gauge the best way to communicate with people at these events. If you have ever been to a networking event, you’ll know that the atmosphere is laxer than your orthodox office party, except now you’re facing a room full of strangers. While liquid courage is not unconventional at these type of gatherings, its best to steer away from the taunting libations and simply prepare, engage and come to the networking event with vigor and self-confidence.
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But just in case you need a bit more fuel for the fire, here are 10 networking tips to kick-a$$ at your next networking event.
The key to holding confidence at networking events is to simply be prepared. It’s not enough to simply accept the Facebook event invitation and meander through the previous posts and guest list. Networking tips should always center on your shortcomings, and in my experience, lack of preparation always has people feeling overwhelmed.
The first thing you need to get situated for the event is your wardrobe. As we have discussed, your wardrobe speaks loudly to your personality and to your business conduct. You’ll want to dress according to the event’s guidelines (usually business casual), but throw on a little something that speaks to you personally. It can be a clean-cut blazer, a pop of color, or even a daring print. Your wardrobe should reflect you as a person without being too glaring.
And naturally, you’ll want to have business cards hot off the press and fully stocked. Take a look over your design and see if they need a more contemporary design, and make sure your contact information is up-to-date. A key way to be remembered at these events is by having outstanding business cards.
And, if you’re clumsy with words, there’s nothing wrong with having some kind of script prepared. Figure out how you want to introduce yourself, construct your elevator pitch, and think of questions to ask your potential business associates.
Connect On LinkedIn First
Networking events are a rootless endeavor if you don’t know anything about your local clientele. Find the even guest list and connect with them on LinkedIn first. Research the attendees background and professional history to see which ways you can connect in person. Pick a few sources from the crowd and develop talking points so that you’re not stuck as a wallflower without anything to contribute to the conversation.
Introduce Yourself At A Networking Event
Networking tips come in all shapes and sizes, but the best that I can give you is to introduce yourself at a networking event. Following around your friend that you brought with you and acting as the silent partner will get you nowhere. Be upfront, but casual, and use those preparation skills to your advantage. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Look, all you have to do is:
-Shake their hand
-Say your full name
-Briefly explain what you do
-Ask about them and their business
Networking basics will always touch upon the best way to introduce yourself at these events. In order to get the real feel of it, however, you can always practice what you’re going to say using a friend, or even a mirror. It might sound cliche and cheesy, but her— it works!
Best Networking Tip – Bring A Friend
One of my favorite networking tips to give to novice business-starters is to bring a friend. Bring someone close to you that both understands and compliments your endeavors. They can help to elevate that social anxiety that most of us have and also act as a talking point. You can share personal anecdotes with the other attendees and create an amicable atmosphere. And hopefully, your friend will have your back and talk up your business if you are too modest to do it yourself.
Questions To Ask At Events
Asking questions to event patrons is going to be the focal point of your interaction with these people. If you want viable networking tips, consider asking questions to be your interview for future business clients. If you think of it that way, it will put you in the mindset of holding the power to make or break a deal; which you have. Coming up with question will be easy once you’ve done your research, but to help give you some ideas here are some basic questions to ask at events:
- What is their work day like?
- How long have they been in their line of business?
- Where are you from?
- How did you hear about the event?
Listen and Learn
You’re almost there! The hard part is over. You’re dressed to the nines, fully prepared, script in memory. You’re engaged in conversation, but now what? Now is when all these networking tips come in handy. When you’re asking questions to your potential clients or associates, you want to express genuine curiosity. Ask follow-up questions, even if it drives you off script. Before you know it, your conversation will be flowing naturally and you’ll forget all about the pre-jitters that paralyzed you hours ago.
Another good idea is to take notes on your phone of what the other person is saying (not in front of them of course; that would be awkward). You can use this later when you formulate your follow-up email (we’ll get to that later).
When you’re having these conversations at networking events, it’s also important to maintain a vernacular dialogue. Don’t come off as preachy or like you’re trying to pitch your “big idea.” This is networking basic for anyone who has been in the game long enough. I promise you that this will severely damage the likelihood of you making a solid connection. Instead, be sociable. Talk about the event, your favorite drink, a great movie you saw recently—do anything but try to sell to them. Helpful networking tips never promote sales-based behavior and for good reason. Remember, you wouldn’t want anyone selling to you, so be respectful and leave the sales pitch for your next meeting.
As long as you aren’t trying to sell to them, chances are that you will actually make decent connections at these events. You make even make a friend. In your conversations, you can naturally connect how your business will help theirs (without sounding pitchy). That way you equate on a personal and a business level. Even for those people that you don’t feel that natural chemistry with, you should always take business cards. These events are just their first impressions of you, and they aren’t the end all, be all for these business connections. I’ve seen other networking tips say otherwise, but trust me when I say that the follow-up is just as important as the first impression.
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Don’t Work The Room
I know we’ve already discussed a decent amount of networking tips so far, but stick with me! Another networking basic to consider for your next networking event is to forego the urge to work the room. Spreading yourself thin is going to make it easier for people to forget about you (and your business) because you’re not sticking around long enough to make substantial connections. As far as networking tips go, this one could be the most important—and the most ignored.
It can be hard to stand in a group of people you feel uncomfortable with and try to forge small talk. I get it; we’ve all been there. But just because you’re not hitting it right off the bat, doesn’t mean this person (or group of people) can’t help with your business goals. Stick with them for at least ten minutes. If not you can move on, but try to find your key group of people so that you’ll be more easily remembered.
And the last bit of networking tips that I’ll leave you with is the follow-up. There are varying opinions about how soon the follow-up should be, but networking basics suggest around two to three days. Those few days gives time for the weekend to pass and for people to empty out their mailboxes. You don’t want to get lost in the slew of business cards that everyone at the networking event inevitably collected, so send a follow-up email reintroducing yourself and your business. Keep it short and sweet, and be sure to include a link to your website and other contact information in your closing. If they’re interested, they’ll respond. If not, give it a few more days and send another email, perhaps asking a question relating to their business. This is a useful tact that can, at the very least, get another conversation going.
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