Some of us love it.
Many of us hate it.
What is it?
The mere thought of networking sends shivers up the backs of some. Why? There are a myriad of reasons, including:
- “I don’t know what to do.”
- “I don’t know what to say.”
- “I don’t like being ‘sold to’ at the event.”
- “I don’t like being ‘spammed’ with sales pitches after the event – often by email.”
….you get the drift….
Personally, I really like networking. I love meeting interesting people, connecting with them, and often, connecting them with others where a beneficial relationship might develop.
Here are my 12 top tips for successful business networking.
1. Be prepared – do your homework
If possible find out who will also be at the networking event. Learn more about the other networkers. Know the people you’d most like to meet at the event.
2. Be interesting – intriguing or elusive, even
When you are asked the age old question: “What do you do?”, don’t say I’m an accountant or a lawyer or a website developer, or whatever it is that you do. You may well be the third accountant they’ve met that day and they’ll think ‘oh, another one’. Yawn!
Be creative in your answer. Create a little mystery. Give an answer that begs another question. One that might be “Oh, that’s interesting – tell me more”, or “Wow,– I have no idea what that means – tell me more”. I promise, you’re more likely to be remembered if you’re intriguing.
3. Be current – have some topical small talk ready
Once introductions are out of the way, start with small talk. Find something topical that’s of mutual interest. That settles everyone into the conversation.
4. Them before you – get to know them
When the conversation circles back into work mode, focus on them first! We love nothing more than talking about ourselves. Get them talking about themselves and their work! Later you can mention a little more of what you do… carefully. No sales pitches. Remember this is only stage one of the ‘getting to know you’ process.
5. Engage in the moment – treasure the meeting
For the time you are with the person you’ve just met, they must become your world. Be fully present and engaged with them. No looking around the room for the next person you want to talk to.
6. Be helpful – give
Remember ‘give before you receive’ or ‘deposits before withdrawals’. What can you do to help them at the event? Can you introduce them to someone they’d like to meet? Perhaps you can share some useful information with them. Ask the question. Give, give and give some more.
7. Study body language – it will reward you
Body language sends out load of signals. Learn to read it. You’ll get a sense as to whether there’s some chemistry happening between you and the person you’re talking to.
8. Quality v quantity – always
While some people thrive on collecting as many business cards as possible at networking events, most often those cards are worthless. Instead have a few quality conversations with people you are genuinely interested in meeting.
9. Shake hands – it’s professional
At networking events there’s nothing more uncomfortable than being offered a handshake and not having yours free. Networking is about work. It’s not dinner and drinks, so never have your hands filled with food and drink. That’s awkward when you’re meeting people you really want to network with.
10. Be you – always
Be you. Don’t be some ‘plastic fantastic’ person who takes over the room. People are looking to build authentic, trusted relationships and friendships with real people. Show them the real you.
11. Be kind – seek out the people who are alone
Some people go to networking events and simply don’t know what to do to get into conversation, so they lurk around the edges, often staring at their phone in the hope that someone will talk to them. Be the one who helps those who aren’t confident about networking to get started. They will thank you for it.
12. Remember… you are OK
Finally, my biggest tip! Not everyone will like you or want to get to know you some more. And that’s OK. We can’t and won’t be liked by everyone. Get over thinking that you can and will. Focus on those with whom you built a genuine connection. Start taking those connections to the next level.
Successful business networking is a journey. It takes time. Take it slowly in the first meeting and develop the relationship over time. You will be rewarded.
Watch out for some exciting news coming soon on how you can develop your business networking skills…. I can’t wait to share it with you. 🙂
QUESTION: What’s your best and most successful business networking tip or tool? I’d love to hear it. Please leave a comment below as I’m certain others will find your tips useful too.