Networking is the art and science of meeting people and building relationships that can benefit your business or career.
Few people would argue that networking is not a viable way to increase your business. But when you find yourself at a networking event, what do you say or do to meet people, connect with them and start building relationships?
- Be yourself. Be honest and humble. Be someone people will relate to.
- Listen. “You have two ears and one mouth, so you should spend more time listening than talking.” It’s hard work, so really focus on what the person is saying. It’s an important aspect of forming a connection with like-minded people. Discover your commonalities by asking questions. People enjoy talking about who they are, what they do and why they do it. Be patient and don’t interrupt. Your turn will come around.
- Find the wallflower “Work the room”, but find the quiet one. Guess what, you aren’t engaged with anyone either. That person may become a good friend or your client. The benefits of networking increase when you connect with more people.
- Start a conversation. “What do you do?”, “How did you get started in your field?”, “What are the challenges you face?”…Networking begins when you take those challenges and explore the ways in which you might be able to help.
- Be pleasant, not pushy. The hard sale is out of style, no one wants to be sold at a networking event. Remember, it about them, not about you. Let the other person direct the conversation, but be engaging so that you keep it going.
- Enjoy helping people. Be helpful. People want to do business with two fundamental types of people—people they like and people who help them. Maybe that help is as simple as making a connection. Connecting two people with each other potentially helps them both and people like working with helpful people.
After the event, you should sort through your new contacts and file their contact info where you can easily locate it.
Do not add them to your newsletter, blog or marketing list without their permission. Following up with a contact is a good idea as long as you avoid signing them up to receive something they haven’t requested. Adding someone to a mailing list without his or her express permission is spam, plain and simple. You took the time to attend a networking event, to mingle and connect with people before collecting their contact information. Don’t throw all that effort away by wasting their time with unwanted noise.
Good Luck and Network, Network, Network.
It will build your sphere of influence and you will connect with new people.