- Know your Community
Prior to attending networking events, do some background research, obtain as much information as you can about the people and professionals that will be at the event.
Doing this preliminary research gives you an idea of the opportunities to expect and how you will make the most of these opportunities. If you provide makeup and beauty services, attending an annual convention of nuns will probably fetch you no client at all.
2. The “Rule of Sevens”
The seven seconds rule is about practicing and using different effective communication styles to your advantage as a networker. The rule basically states that you make your first impression in seven seconds, “create” interest in 14 seconds and “sell” your story. You can practice with a friend or colleague, have them listen to you and give constructive criticism.
3. Be Prepared for Business
The first step to getting results in anything in life is preparation, and you need a lot of it in business networking. Attend networking events with enough business cards and an already prepared sound elevator pitch, do not put your pitch together in a rush at the event.
Elevator pitch is a value-based short statement that clearly states what you do, the services you provide and can provide. Of course, there would be occasions where you will need to add or remove some ideas or points from your already prepared pitch, but going to a networking event without an elevator pitch at all is not advisable.
4. Be Yourself and Make Strong Impressions
Personality is a major element in networking. If you want to succeed in networking you need your personality A-game. One of the simplest and best ways to make a memorable impression on those you are engaged with is showing interest while making them interested in you and what you do.
Listen to what they have to say, ask questions about what they do, where they work, their goals and plans; offer to help, although only when necessary. Ensure your personality is interesting enough to make them build their interest in you and your business.
5. Organize Your Contacts
When starting out in networking, begin by making a list of your personal and professional contacts, including your relationship with them, how you met them and how they can be of advantage to your business and you to theirs.
6. Act Immediately
Take immediate actions on what you discussed at the event. Visit in person when necessary or put a call through to your new and existing contacts. If you scheduled a meeting or phone chat, reconfirm and be prompt. The essence of these activities is to build professional relationships. Ensure you act within 48 hours or less, this will help “cement you in their minds and portray you as an ethical and serious individual and help you create lasting professional relationships.
7. Find Networking Groups and Join
Once you have joined a group, don’t be just a member, become an active one. Join committees, participate in projects, take leadership roles, meet more people, learn and stand out. This can be of very great interest to the growth of your business or career.
8. Stay Connected
Stay in touch with your top contacts regularly, just enough to make them keep you in mind. It gives you a better chance of being called upon when a professional with your expertise is needed. Use subtle ways like a LinkedIn message, emails or phone calls. Be warm in your messages, show gratitude, and ask for ways you can be of help, also keep your messages professional.
9. Believe in your Business
Be confident about your business and be fully committed to it. When you believe in your ideas and are committed to your business, you become confident about it and it becomes easy to get the ideal individuals for your business or career to want to associate with you.
10. Take Advantage of Free Services
Do not let them slip away! Take the opportunities of local events to offer your time and perhaps services free of charge, this can help connect you with some important people. No one turns down free services and when it is good, they will never forget where it came from.
11. Use Gifts
During special holidays or festive seasons, you should send corporate gifts to your contacts, especially your top contacts. You can send a thank you card or any appropriate gift item. Sending corporate gifts gives the recipient a good impression of you; it is also a professional gesture that can send help if you send the right message to the recipient.
12. Learn from the Greats
Experienced and successful individuals do not often have problems passing down their industry knowledge and secrets to the upcoming generation willing to learn from them. Seek out people who have become great in your field or line of business and learn from them. Do not be ashamed to ask questions, then apply the knowledge you have gained from them. Learning from these people can give you keys that would make positive impact on your business or career.
13. Put Puzzle Pieces Together
Networking is similar to putting pieces of a puzzle together. Every connection is a piece of your networking puzzle. Figure out ways to put your connections and information together, integrate everything you gathered and learn to create the bigger picture you want.
14. Create a Professional Portfolio
Sometimes networking isn’t just you finding people, it also people finding you too and that just got easier, thanks to the internet and social media. Create a professional portfolio for yourself, you can do that on a professional networking website or create a professional blog for yourself where people can read about what you do, your achievements and aspirations. It will help you make more connections with people, especially those of like minds or similar interests to yours. This is also a way of selling yourself and your services to an unlimited number of people.
15. Connect with the Right People
Find and connect with people who you know will make productive contributions to you and your business. Do not be afraid to cut off the ones weighing you down or taking you backward. If the impact is not positive, dissociate from such individuals.
16. Attend Business/professional Conferences
If you do not have the time to network on a one-one level, don’t just sit back, try going into a group. Attend professional/business conferences and other relevant networking event. These conferences will give you the opportunity to meet potential clients or business contacts in one room, and most of the individuals at these type of conferences also want the network. Networking becomes easier when you have to meet individuals who want to meet you too.
17. Use Social Media
Entrepreneurs and professionals who do not have much time for going to events and conferences for networking can use Social media as a networking tool. Social media platforms like LinkedIn, twitter and Facebook are online networking tools through which you can connect with an unlimited number of professionals in same or similar business or career.
18. Ditch the Sales Pitch
Networking is the same as building relationships. When you meet someone with the aim of networking, let your approach be light and informal. Do not let out the sales expert in you within the first few minutes.
Those first few minutes are personality check time for your listeners. If your personality puts them off, they might not listen to anything else you’ve got to say. Also, be ready to sell! Have a mental detail of your products and services, your clients, new projects, new clients you just landed, including accomplishments. Ensure that before going to any networking events or meetings, you are fully prepared to answer any question your potential clients or customers may ask.
Smiling helps your personality score; it also eases your nervousness and presents you as warm and inviting. Smile before stepping into a room or an event venue, even if you do not know anyone in there. Overcome or hide any negative emotions that can make you exude negative attitudes.
20. Don’t Hijack the Conversation
Sometimes individuals who are skilled at networking may turn their conversations into a one-man show. Ensure you do not become the commander of the discussion. Being a good networker involves being a good listener too. It shouldn’t be about you and what you have to say alone, nobody likes such people. When networking at events, learn people’s names and use their names, listen to what other people have to say, present your discussions or pitch in a conversational manner.