Some people get nervous about attending a business networking function. They may be uncomfortable meeting new people, or they don’t know where to begin when they walk into the event. Others feel that they just don’t get anything out of their networking efforts. I’ve taken my years of experience and compiled this list of ten tips to help you successfully network your way through your next mixer.
- Keep Your Networking Tools with You at All Times.
These tools include a professionally made name badge, business cards, brochures about your business, and an easy way to access the contact information of your referral partners to whom you can refer new business.
My Personal Tip: I keep my business cards in many places for easy access: in my wallet, suit pockets, in my briefcase, my car, and in my suitcase.
- Before the Event, Set Your Goal for the Number of People You Will Meet.
People often set one goal before they arrive at a mixer, and that is the time they plan to leave (which has nothing to do with networking). Rather than a goal to simply say hello and collect business cards from dozens of other professionals, I recommend that you set a goal to not leave the event until you have a meaningful conversation with at least five people. Remember, business networking is a marathon not a sprint.
- Act Like a Host, Not a Guest.
Although this tip works well for everyone, those who are a bit shy find this is a way to be more comfortable when introducing themselves to new people. A host naturally does things for others, while a guest sits back and relaxes. If you see visitors sitting alone at the event, introduce yourself and ask if they would like to meet others.
My Personal Tip: Volunteer to be an Ambassador or Visitor Host in your networking group. You will meet lots of new people when you volunteer to help the organization by serving in a position that acts as the host at each meeting.
- Listen and Ask Questions.
As I have said many times: A good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them proportionately. When you meet someone, ask questions about what they do. Then be quiet and LISTEN. Ask appropriate follow up questions based on what they say. People truly appreciate when someone is genuinely interested. Only after you’ve learned what they do, tell them what you do. Be specific, and brief, without assuming that they know about your profession.
- Don’t Try to Close a Deal.
Networking events are not the place to solicit other businesspeople to buy your products or services. Networking is about farming more than hunting. It is about developing and cultivating relationships with other professionals. Meeting someone at a networking event should be the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship, not a face-to-face cold call.
- Give Referrals When Possible.
The most successful networkers believe in the philosophy of Givers Gain® which is based on the social capital theory of the Law of Reciprocity. That means when you are asking questions and listening to the answers, someone may share a need or challenge they have. If possible, refer them to one of your referral partners who can help them resolve the situation.
- Exchange Business Cards.
Ask each person you meet for two cards–one to keep for yourself and one to pass on to someone else. Exchanging business cards is very important because you need their contact information to follow up. Generally, if you ask for their card, they will in turn ask for yours which is an easy way to share your card.
- Manage Your Time Efficiently.
I recommend spending ten minutes or less with each person you meet. If your goal is to meet a certain number of people, be mindful that you don’t spend too much time with any one person. When you meet someone interesting with whom you’d like to have a longer conversation, set up an appointment with them for a later date.
My Personal Tip: Don’t linger with friends or associates. I have gone to many networking mixers where I see people who already know each other talk exclusively together throughout the entire event.
- Write Notes on the Back of Business Cards You Collect.
Record things that will be helpful for you to better remember each person you meet. ALWAYS ask them if it is okay to write on their card. Be aware that in some cultures, it may be considered bad form to write on a business card. Alternatively, you can take notes on your phone or in a small notepad that you carry.
- Follow up!
If you do all nine of the previous tips without any follow up, it will all have been for naught. Follow up with a text or email, give them a call, or write and mail a handwritten note. Be sure to fulfill any promises you made at the event, such as sending information about another networking meeting you are attending or making an introduction to someone they want to meet. Without timely and sincere follow up, the time invested at a networking event is completely wasted.
My Personal Tip: I am often asked, “What is the best method to use to follow up with people?” The best way to follow up is to use whichever method that YOU will do consistently.
These tips can help you feel more comfortable at mixers, leading to better results from your networking efforts. Business networking doesn’t have to be challenging or feel like a waste of time. With the right approach, you can use mixers to build a network of valuable resources and contacts that will help bring more success to you and your business.
Related Blog Posts: