Networking meetings is a perfect time for you to not only gain valuable information from attending the sessions, but a perfect place to reach out to others with similar interests and connect.
I have gone to many networking meeting to observe how some are master networkers that knows the small as well as key actions needed to get the most of the event, while others walk away with only an earful of information, promotional products and a bunch of brochures.
If you are going to take the time and money to attend these meetings, make the most of them and be ready to network and connect with others. I have asked many successful business professionals to share their networking best practices and have listed them below:
- Get out of your comfort zone: When we go to events where there are a lot of new faces and personalities, it is natural for us to seek comfort by things familiar to us, so we go on the hunt for familiar faces. Sometimes, we go out of our way to look for people we know already and might even send them a text to find out where they are. Now nothing is wrong with maintaining a contact, but if you spend the majority of your time with the people you already know, then your circle of network will pretty much stay the same. By forcing yourself to get out of your comfort zone and seek out new faces to introduce yourself to, you might make a lasting connection. A good tip is to find someone not talking to someone or simply say to people, hi. Nothing fancy and no liners like a cheesy pickup line.
Business Cards: A general practice at networking events is the exchange of business cards. I have encountered some people who have ran out and had to write on a back of someone else’s card. This does not give a professional impression so be sure to have a full stock of business cards ready to hand out.
Position Yourself: The best times to meet people is right before a session starts and immediately following. Stand by the door before the session starts, and say hi as people walk by. If needed, save your seat by hanging your coat or belonging to save your spot. I see people quietly sneaking in after a speaker starts and not only is it rude, but you also lose the opportunity to meet new people and talk about the upcoming speaker or event. You will also want to stay back once the session is over as well to interact with others and get their thoughts on the session.
Get Involved: The more involved you are with the program, the more people you will interact with and gain more from the event. Volunteer as a member of a panel or ask to be a guest speaker.
Listen: We all love to talk about ourselves and what we are, but try and be a good listener and give full attention to the person in front of you. Don’t let your eyes wander to see who else is around, give full attention to the person you are talking to and ask lots of questions about their most favorite subject, themselves and you will have them chatting it up.
Use their name: When talking with someone the best way to remember their name is by using their name multiple times during the conversation. Try to remember names and when you run across them during the event, say hi and impress them by using their name.
Cultures: Be cognizant of others business cultures and try to learn different business culture practices, this way you won’t accidentally offend someone and you might just impress some!
Be the networking catalyst: Show your networking skills by being the person to introduce people to others, even if you have just met them. Give a few lines of information about what you have just learned about the person and share it with the new person who has joined your circle of conversation.
Connect: The goal is to connect with a few key contacts and to develop the connection into a business relationship and not about how many business cards you can collect during the event. If you feel that you have connected with someone, put that person’s card in your wallet and make sure to follow up with that person immediately. I usually connect with at least 2 people at an event and keep in contact with them. We want to connect with as many as possible, but with the time constraints, it is sometimes hard to, so when you do connect with someone, make it worthwhile.
Follow up: Collecting all those business cards and chatting it up is useless unless you actively follow up with the people you talked with and have connected. Take notes of your discussion with the person behind their card (not while they are there with you), and send an email or better yet, give them a call. Don’t let time pass too long and if 72 hours has passed after the event, you will be long forgotten by then.
You spend lots of money attending networking events and some events might even be as high as $7000! Make the most of your time and money spent by innovating the way you network during these events.