If you’re reading this, you’re probably a business owner, and you’ve attended a few networking events here and there. Maybe you’ve participated in a speed networking event and attended a few trade shows. However, you feel like these networking events haven’t done much for your business, and you aren’t maximising your opportunities of networking with people. Does this sound familiar? If yes, read on.
Successful networking takes time and effort. Building a professional network doesn’t just magically happen. It’s important to prioritize networking and attend different networking events to reach as many contacts as possible. You can choose from different types of networking events, including workshops, trade shows, and speed networking. No matter the kind of event you attend, you need to make the most out of it. Here are some of the best networking tips to maximize each networking event.
Top Three Networking Tips
There are many networking tips you can follow, but if we were to narrow it down to the three best networking tips, here they are:
1. Come prepared
Just like you would prepare for an important meeting, prepare before any networking event. First, memorize and perfect your elevator pitch. Remember that your pitch should only be 20 to 30 seconds long and contain everything you want the other person to know about you and your company. Your pitch is vital, and people will remember you based on the first impression you make.
Next, ensure you have all the business cards and other materials you need within easy reach. You don’t want to be scrambling for your business cards or reaching in and out of your bag looking for a pen, wasting time. While this might seem small, preparing your materials ahead of time can save you a few precious minutes. Plus, being ready gives you an air of confidence that will play into your overall image.
Most importantly, prepare mentally and get into the networking mindset. Remember that the networking event you’re attending is a great opportunity for yourself and your business. Prepare for it as much as possible and put effort into it before and during the event. You’re already spending a few hours there; you might as well make the most of your time.
Keep in mind that you are attending a networking event for a reason. Don’t come in and wait for things to happen or for people to approach you. You won’t get anywhere by standing in the corner, expecting people to come up to you. Make a plan for the event, such as who you want to meet, how many business cards you want to leave with, and how many minutes you will spend talking to each person. These goals help ensure you are not wasting your time and money if it’s a paid event.
For example, if the networking event is a workshop, make it a point to introduce yourself to the speaker (if guidelines allow it) and ask for their business card if possible. You don’t have to have a long conversation with them but introducing yourself is a good start. If you’re attending a speed networking event, ensure you get the business cards of all those who attend and take note of those you want to nurture professional relationships with.
You can also make long-term networking plans. Sample goals can be as simple as attending three networking events in the next three months. Another is to get ten new contacts from the workshop you’re attending next week. Make a list of the different networking events you can attend in the coming year so you can make them an important part of your business plan.
3. Follow up
Arguably the most important among all networking tips is to follow up! You might have wasted the entire networking event if you don’t follow up soon after meeting someone. Following up with your professional contacts helps the relationship grow and move forward. You don’t need to follow up on the same day, but ensure you get in touch with your new contacts within a day or two after the event. It goes both ways-if a person you met at a networking event doesn’t contact you or follow up soon after the event, you will most likely think that they are not interested in pursuing a professional relationship. Another common scenario, if no one follows up, is that you simply will forget about even meeting them.
Right after the event, send a simple message to thank them for their time, remind them about what you do, and leave the conversation open to future follow ups. Touch base with professional contacts regularly, especially when you have something to share that might be valuable to them.
Other Tips for Business Networking Events
Networking should be a priority for all business owners. Think of it as personally marketing yourself and your business. Don’t leave networking to chance or have an “if it’s convenient” mindset when making professional connections. It should be on your list of must-do’s and something you spend time doing a few minutes a day, or at least a few times a week. Make it an automatic part of your regular tasks.
Here are more of the best networking tips to keep in mind:
1. Remember that networking should result in win-win situations
Networking should benefit both parties involved. Don’t just think of how someone can help you and your business. You need to help the other person as well. A professional network should be mutually beneficial for all those involved. A good network allows you to learn from others and vice versa.
Maybe you have a contact that needs a window supplier, and you remember that one of the people you met at a networking event supplies windows. Connect the two even if there’s nothing in it (business or profit-wise) for you. The effort you put into connecting with people will also pay off for you in the future. Networking is all about building relationships.
2. Manage your time
Unless you attend a speed networking event where you are given a set amount of time to interact with everyone, you need to manage your time while networking with people. If you are attending a seminar, you only have a few minutes before and after the seminar to talk to people. Give yourself a goal of how many new contacts you want to make. Target making new contacts, and do not spend too much time talking to people you already know.
If you spend 20 to 30 minutes talking to one person, the seminar will be over before you know it, and you won’t have any other new contacts to add to your network. Again, time is a nonrenewable resource. Don’t waste it!
3. Leverage LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool that allows you to grow your professional network without leaving your desk. Start by being more active on your LinkedIn page by sharing helpful information and engaging with other users. You can connect with people you’ve never met in person and those in different locations you may never have met otherwise. You can comment on their posts or share content posted by others. After a few interactions, you can send them a message to connect with them more personally.
While there is no substitute for networking events that are face-to-face, LinkedIn is a valuable supplement to attending networking events. Many people have used the platform to find suppliers, reach out to new customers, and get in touch with industry experts.
4. Update your networking plan regularly
Another networking tip is to update your networking plan regularly and consistently. After you’ve made an initial networking plan and attended a few networking events, you’ll have a new list of connections to add to your network. Go through them and see who you haven’t followed up with lately. Try to match names to faces and see how you can connect with them on a more engaging level. You send them articles that might be valuable, or you connect them to another person in your network who can benefit from networking with them.
These are some of the best networking tips you should never forget when attending networking events. Again, you are spending nonrenewable time, effort, and your hard-earned money to participate in these networking events. You want to ensure that they don’t aren’t wasted and that you meet your networking goals.
Remember that you can only achieve your goals after you’ve set some goals! All the best networking tips will go to waste if you don’t have a networking plan. A great place to start is being aware of the networking events in your area. Maybe there’s a speed networking event or a local industry association meeting next week. Begin there and ensure that you keep these networking tips in mind. When you become consistent at attending networking events and applying these networking tips, they’ll become second nature for you. You’ll soon be reaping the benefits of an active professional network and enjoy networking in the process.