Networking does not come easily for many people. The thought of entering a room full of people who you don’t know and introducing yourself can be daunting. And then when you have introduced yourself, you have to actually think about what to say.
But networking is important for every business. It helps you build mutually beneficial relationships that could lead to sales or help push your business forward.
So, to help you on your networking journey, here are our tips to get the most out of business networking events:
Before the Event
- Be prepared. Make sure you have enough business cards, a pen, mints, a fully charged phone etc.
- Check the details of the event. Will there be food or should you eat before you go? What is the dress code?
- Write down your goals for the event. What do you want to achieve? Are you looking for suppliers? A mentor? A peer to bounce ideas off?
- See if there is an attendee list. Many MeetUp groups and Eventbrite events list the attendees. Look at the list ahead of time, note the key people you want to make contact with, and look them up on LinkedIn before the event.
- Reserve a few hours the next day to make follow up calls and emails. It can be tempting to just throw yourself back into work the day after an event. But, connections are the reason you attended the event in the first place, so make time to follow up.
At the Event
- Arrive early. There will be less people and smaller groups making it easier to integrate yourself into conversations.
- Remember your body language. Even if you’re nervous, enter the room with a smileand relax your posture.
- If you know the host, seek them out and ask them to introduce you to people. They will know the most about the attendees and can direct you to the people best suited for you.
- Approach pairs of people, not individuals. It’s likely that they arrived together and know they should be networking but haven’t found the confidence yet. Or they could have just met and are looking to extricate themselves and move on. Either way you will create a great distraction and get to meet two people at the same time.
- Wear your name tag on your right shoulder. Most people are right handed so when you shake hands, your name tag will be easy to see. And if you write your name, make sure it’s legible!
- Ask easy questions. To get a conversation started simply ask “May I join you?” or “What brings you to this event?” These are easy ways to start a conversation and will give you a chance to think of more conversation topics.
- Ditch the sales pitch. Remember networking is about relationship building. Keep it fun, light and informal. The pitch comes in the follow up.
- Don’t hijack a conversation. Listening can be a hard tool to master, especially if you talk to overcompensate for nervousness. Good networkers make the other person feel special and listened to. So remember to take a breath and listen.
- Limit the number of contacts you make at an event. Remember it’s quality over quantity. If you only make five connections per monthly event, that’s 55 contacts per year!
- Don’t spend too long talking to people. Spend 5 to 10 minutes talking to people. Gain enough knowledge to know if your business and interests match, take their details and move on. The detailed conversations can be saved for your follow up.
- Write notes on the backs of people’s business cards. It will help you remember information about who you meet and will give you a short break before meeting the next person. Write the date and event on the front and notes about the conversation on the back.
After the Event
- Connect on LinkedIn with the people you met. It will help you stay in touch and benefit from their networks too.
- Follow up! Networking is where a conversation begins, not ends. Pick up the phone, write a letter or email them. Whatever you do, follow up with the people you met within 24 hours. Offer to take them for a coffee or lunch to carry on your conversation.
Using these simple approaches will boost your confidence and ensure you get the most out of business networking.
Register for the SBBC Awards Ceremony
Small Business BC’s Award Ceremony is your opportunity to network with BC’s top business owners, industry leaders and government officials. Enjoy drinks and appetizers while working the room to meet some of the most influential people in business who are passionate about entrepreneurship.
Taking place on Feburary 26, 2015 at the Pan Pacific Vancouver, the Small Business BC awards is your opportunity to grow your entrepreneurial network. Book your ticket today at sbbcawards.ca/buy-tickets.