The mere mention of the word networking can send icy fingers of anxiety running down the spine.
Even the most outgoing and gregarious professionals sometimes feel nervous when confronting a room full of industry colleagues at a conference or business function. But a little planning can help you approach new people with confidence. Effective networking can help build a network of professional contacts to advance your career and build your business.
When you attend a business function, it’s important to be prepared. Make sure you have a stock of business cards and any collateral materials like marketing brochures that you might want to distribute. And while it sounds obvious, don’t forget to wear your name badge!
Next, set a goal for the number of people you’d like to meet. If you’re feeling nervous, start out slow. Shoot for five new contacts if you’re feeling nervous, or ten if you’re inspired. Don’t leave until you’ve met the quota.
Act like you are a host at the event rather than a guest. Greet people, engage colleagues who are sitting alone and offer to introduce them to others. Bring people together. If you feel nervous, prepare a few topics of conversation beforehand so you don’t find yourself tongue –tied. If there is a particular person you would like to meet, do some research beforehand so you’re prepared to discuss topics of interest to them.
Remember that most people love to talk about themselves. Encourage them to do so and be a good listener. Engage with what they’re saying and ask questions. After you’ve learned more about what they do, tell them about yourself. Be brief, but specific.
Networking events exist for you to make connections, not business deals. You’re not selling anything, but rather building relationships. Meeting new people at a networking event is the beginning of a process, not the end. Give referrals where you can, and offer your interlocutors something of value.
Make sure you give new contacts your business card, and be sure to get theirs. Once the event is over, make notes of your conversation on the back of the card.
Finally, be sure to follow up with your new contacts and carry through with any promises you’ve made.
For more information, please read:
10 commandments for better networking | San Francisco Business Times