Networking – ugh! It can feel so fake and weird. What to do? Network like a pro with these tips for:
- Before the event
- During the even
- After you network
Have a plan.
Know what you want to get out of the networking event. Is it a recommendation for a vendor (general contractor, anyone?), or a lead for a job, or an idea for a blog topic?
Know your elevator speech.
It doesn’t have to be long & involved (in fact, it shouldn’t be). Write it down, and practice saying it a zillion times until you get the words just the way you want them. Include what you do, who you serve, and the results your clients/customers get. This is a great approach, whether you work for a large firm, small organization, or you’re an entrepreneur.
Know what you’ll wear.
I know, I know, but it’s important. You want to wear something that’s comfortable and also is consistent with the personal brand you want to portray. Make sure it doesn’t require any major adjusting when you sit down or stand up or write on a business card (because you will be doing all of those things while networking).
Look at the person you’re talking to.
Nobody wants to see your eyes darting around the room, looking for someone More Important and/or Cooler Than You. Seriously. The person in front of you is the most important one at that moment, so treat them like it.
Ask interesting questions that will help you get to know your network-ee better. “What do you do?”: not interesting. “What’s the toughest problem your industry is facing right now?” or “What’s the best thing about working where you do?”: more interesting. And more likely to get authentic answers.
Carry a pen.
This will come in handy – you can write a little note on any business cards you collect with any follow-up action the moment you’re done networking with your person (who you’ve looked at, not annoyingly, the entire time you’ve talked with them). A side note, if you’re getting new business cards made, make sure they’re easy to write on.
Know how you’ll capture your information.
I have an app on my phone that lets me scan a business card, and it’ll automatically load it to my business software. That’s a huge time-saver for me! But you can also keep the paper cards in a file or hand-enter information into your address book. Whatever works for you!
Have a follow-up plan.
You won’t need to take action with every single business connection you make, but you’ll definitely have some. It might be sharing a link to a lecture you spoke about or an article you discussed, or it could be adding someone to your newsletter list (note: that’s only cool if you have their express permission). Maybe it’s setting up a phone call.
Whatever your little scribblings on people’s cards say, make sure you have time the day after the event – or the day of, if you can – to do your follow up. Being meticulous about your follow up will put you well ahead of most people, and will help you add “a person of their word” to your personal brand.
What’s your favorite networking tip? Tell us in the comments below!