Mastering Networking can be a daunting process. For some people, walking into a room full of strangers that they are expected to talk to is exciting. The rest of us may not approach a networking event with quite as much enthusiasm. Regardless of how you feel, I want to share some tips that make your time and effort worthwhile, and maybe even fun!
Before the Event
Like any business meeting, do your homework in advance. Find out about the people or the organization that is hosting the event, who was invited, and who is going to be there. Some events will restrict attendance to one person per industry while others are wide open. You want to attend events where there are potential clients or partners. If you are a florist, a meeting of construction equipment vendors may not benefit you. Not sure who will be there? Contact the organizer and ask. If there is someone in particular that you would like to meet, ask the host for an introduction.
Practice your Elevator Pitch, your 30-60 second commercial of who you are, what you offer, and who you are looking to connect with. You need to deliver your pitch with clarity, pride, and confidence. (For more tips, please read this post: https://ackentuckiana.wpengine.com/2022/01/04/art-of-elevator-pitch/.)
One challenge I am often asked about is how to avoid people in the same industry. After all, you do not need to sell life insurance to another insurance agent. Here is a very simple tip: wear a professional name tag that is easy to read and includes your business name. This will help steer potential clients towards you, and competitors will head in a different direction.
Stock up on business cards. Do I need to elaborate? Your empty pocket does not help you.
Mastering Small Talk
I’ll make this easy – you don’t have to be the one talking. Ask questions, then sit back and enjoy learning about the other person and their business. When they in turn ask about your business you will be able to dazzle them with your well-rehearsed elevator pitch. Know what makes you unique and why you are the best at what you do.
Here are some other easy conversation starters: Is this your first time attending this event? Who are your potential customers? What was your biggest win last month? Express a sincere interest in the other person and you will be rewarded with a great connection.
The networking event is not the place to conduct business. If you find a great connection schedule a time to meet again. Share your contact information, either electronically or with your business card.
Sometimes you will feel stuck talking to someone. Gracefully extract yourself by suggesting that you continue the conversation another time. Another approach is to thank them for chatting with you; however, you are looking to meet several other people as you know they are as well. You can also introduce them to someone else, then excuse yourself.
If you do find yourself speaking with a competitor, be gracious. Learn something about them and their business, then wish them well and move on.
Unless you are a CDC website junkie, it is difficult to know the latest guidelines, so be considerate. Do not offer to shake hands, keep enough distance to have a conversation without crowding someone. If you are sick, I don’t care how mild your symptoms are, please stay home. Pandemic or not, I am never going to do business with the person who sneezes or coughs in public, especially when they do not cover their nose and mouth.
After the Event
Connect with the people you met on Linked In and promptly follow up with the people who you want as clients or referral partners. Even if you have already set up a meeting, send a follow-up email or text. At a busy event, I may speak to 20-30 people. Here is my tip to keep them straight: I make sure I have at least two pockets for the business cards I collect, one for the folks I want to meet with again and one for the other nice folks I met.
I hope that you approach your next networking event well prepared and with anticipation. Be ready to meet some great people, learn something, and have some fun! If you need more tips on connecting with potential clients, let’s talk: firstname.lastname@example.org And look for me at your next event – I’ll have my name tag on, and I can’t wait to meet you!
Author: Sandy Merritt, Business Coach in Louisville, KY