Networking the right way

We’ve all been there at networking events were we don’t know anybody and trying to start the conversation off with something that may lead to a potential business opportunity isn’t the easiest thing in the world. So what is the best way to approach this situation?

First relax and take a walk around. It might seem obvious but taking the time to work your way around the room find out where the toilets are, where the food and drinks are can help later on and a little familiarity with your environment will improve your confidence!

Put yourselves in the other person’s shoes. There are lots of people at networking events however it is often common to find lots of people trying to make a connection to one often significant and valuable person. To the positive networker this becomes an opportunity to meet the people stood by them selves waiting for someone to strike up a conversation.

Talk about topics outside of work. Networking events are great for talking business; however unless the person your talking to is very direct why not take the time to get to know them. After all your both at an event after working hours and a bit of light hearted chat could go a long way to making you stand out against the other 10 business cards stuffed away in their wallet!

Why are they there? Quite often the person might not know who they hope to meet at these events. Why not give some value and ask what sort of person they would like to meet, if they really don’t know who then a few relevant introductions can be a great way to pick up the conversation. After they’ve finished the conversation with the person you’ve introduced them to you’ll be ready to restart the conversation with your new found mastered networking skills!

The Follow up. The drinks have been finished hours ago and you get home with a handful of business cards but what next? It’s surprising how many people you meet and never stay in contact with and because they see no immediate benefit they don’t contact you either. This is the wrong way to look at the situation, everyone has unique skills and you may need to utilize their skills at a later date or you might know someone that needs their services. Follow up with a brief email and try to mention something about the night i.e

Hi Michelle, It was good to meet you last night. I hope you made lots of contacts out of the event. I said I would send you that will help you keep on top of the latest events…….

By sending the contact I made an email and providing something of value I’ve opened up an exchange for her  to be open with me, now presuming she chooses to reply I can leave an open dialogue that I will let her know when the next event is or introduce her to a business acquaintance.

Contact Management. Too often if we do contact people after the event we lose touch with the people we meet. This is usually due to us not being open in our dialogue of offering them value and help should they need it. What’s the best way to show you’re genuine and want to help someone? Prove it! That’s right if you promised to tell new contacts about their wonderful new widget/product/service then do so, you never know when they might do the same! Its also important to be able to organize your networking contacts, if your don’t currently work in sales then using a low cost online crm that you can store contact details and will remind you of when to contact them which ideally should be every few months unless you’ve discussed otherwise.

I hope this helps with your networking and don’t be shy to invite me along to any events soon!

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