As you grow older, you will often hear the words “you need to make connections,” “you must learn how to network.” You might not get away with this term easily but what does networking really mean?
Business Networking Definition
In business, networking is the process of building a relationship with other owners, potential customers, suppliers, or any other person who has professional experience. Networking does not happen all of a sudden it takes the right time and place for networking to work effectively.
Here’s where networking events come into play.
Networking events are made to meet different people and share who you are, what you do and to gain some ‘networks’ or that you can use in your career. Developing relationships is more than just about seeking potential clients or generating referrals, networking can help you to create opportunities for partnerships, joint ventures, or new areas of expansion for your company.
Networking events will surely be beneficial for you and your company. The more people you talk to, the more chances you have to progress in your career path. But you might still be hesitant to attend networking for some personal reasons like, “I do not know what to do on networking events,” or “I think this is not my craft.”
Do not be worried about it because there are things that you can do to make networking simple, convenient, and straightforward.
What is the best way for you to succeed at a networking event?
Learning how to network will not just improve your career, it will also help your personal life, too. According to research, networkers don’t just have amazing businesses, jobs, and careers, but they have amazing friendships and are always open to new opportunities.
Preparation will help you to network like a professional, so here are some tips on how you can do well in a networking event.
Before the event
Prepare yourself for the event
Before you go to the event, prepare yourself with an answer to “why am I going?” you should think of a response and turn it into a goal.
You should also consider the type of event that you are about to go to. You must identify whether it is a job fair, business meeting people, seminars and workshops, or professional conferences. This way you can think of what to wear and what to expect at the gathering.
It is hard to decide what to wear for a networking event. Perhaps, when you are planning your outfit, make sure that you pick something professional. Also, choose something that will make you feel good but not disorganized, overdressed, or overly casual. Remember that comfortable shoes will be helpful as you will be on your feet a lot.
Create an elevator pitch to share your story in 30 seconds or less
One of the most essential things you need to have is your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a brief story that really sells something, and it is a key for networking effectively. Networking events are filled with different types of people, so be prepared and practice to pitch yourself or your organization in between thirty seconds to one minute.
Elevator pitch is critical for anyone for there is only a short amount of time to impress other people. Thus, a great elevator pitch can encourage a person’s interest and convince them to stop and listen longer.
Bring business cards
Bringing business cards looks pretty basic but many people often forget to bring enough cards and say “I just gave away my last one.” If you know that you have an upcoming networking event, make sure that you are ready and equipped with business cards.
Bring more than what you think you need and keep them in a hard case or anything that will keep them off from dirt and being crumpled. This way you can grab them quickly and it looks more professional than pulling it out of your back pocket.
Make sure that you have proper storage for the business cards you received to avoid digging through your purse or wallet when looking for them or worse is to lose them. If you are using a card purse, it is convenient to use one side of it for your cards while the other side for someone else’s, this way you can exchange cards easily.
During the event
Be confident and professional to Introduce yourself
This is where your elevator pitch will take in. When you meet someone new, make eye contact, smile, and introduce yourself by saying your name and giving a handshake. Take a moment to look at the person’s name tag because it may include the industry or company they are working for or their role in the organization which will give you an idea to have something to talk about.
Once you state your introduction or pitch, let the other person take the moment to speak. Make sure that the person you are speaking to is not preoccupied with anything else so it will give its full attention to you. It is always a good idea to leave a question after you introduce yourself so that the person you are talking to will be much more comfortable and focused.
Whenever it is your turn to speak again, state all your ideas in the shortest possible time you can. Avoid using industry language and let them dig deep into your details. The key you need to remember when networking is to build great bonds, so if the person cannot understand what you are talking about, a ‘networking’ or connection is impossible to happen.
Admit it or not but you won’t remember all the details of every conversation, so the best way to overcome this is to write them down. After speaking to someone, find a place where you can make notes. It does not have to be a big notebook, their business card is enough to write down any impression about them. It might be what you talked about or any questions you would like to ask later on. Again, networking events are made to connect, by taking down notes you can make future conversations easier.
After the networking event
Follow up after the event to stay in touch with people you met at the event
You could easily make connections with anyone during the event, but if you do not do something afterward it will make you fall down and start from scratch again. Everyone is busy meeting other people during the event so it is important to follow up and remind them of your existence.
Ideally, within twenty-four to forty-eight hours after the event, you shall gather up the cards and the notes you wrote down and send a follow-up email to new people that you met and would like to continue networking with.
With the help of your notes, you can personalize each email and tell them a relevant story that you talked about. Personalizing an email will let the person you are talking to know that you really enjoyed meeting them.
Sending a follow-up email is also the best way to exchange deeper information, follow-up questions, news, or anything that will be beneficial for both of you. By doing this, you can establish your connection with your new network and can have an open conversation that you can easily go back to in the near future.
Build a network of connections through online tools like LinkedIn or Facebook groups
In today’s era, online tools and platforms are taken advantage of to build networks. They are not just made to make networking easier, but they establish better relationships and leave an open line of conversations to both parties.
Taking time to contact and make relationships through online tools like LinkedIn and Facebook groups can be done before and after the event. This can be a little more casual than usual but always keep in mind that you are still a business person who works with different people.
Attending networking events takes a lot of practice, skills, and confidence. Being prepared before the event and equipping yourself with the right knowledge of dos and don’ts at the event will make you look natural and leave a great impression on the people you are about to meet. These tips will surely help you to be better at networking, but most important of all is to relax and enjoy the networking event you will be attending.