Seminars and conferences provide an opportunity to listen to key speakers and learn something that you can take away and use within your own business. These events are also the perfect chance to network with other people, from different businesses, industries, and often different countries, too!
For many, networking events can be a daunting experience. Walking into a room full of strangers and trying to strike up an interesting conversation is not easy task. In these situations, you no longer have the protection of the digital world, where you’re perfectly comfortable talking to contacts via LinkedIn or sending tweets to people you’ve never met before. However, networking face-to-face is undoubtedly an important element of business, so it can be an extremely valuable skill to master.
Not only are networking events an excellent place to establish a new business relationship, they can also lead to future job opportunities and they provide a chance to learn from other industry experts. When networking, you may find that it’s helpful to talk to other people within the industry who are in a similar position to you, facing similar difficulties and challenges in their roles.
Essential Networking Tips
Networking is important to your business, so don’t just rely on your business card, a good smile, and a firm handshake. The following 10 networking tips will help you evaluate your approach to networking and ensure that you are getting the most out of every conference, seminar and business event that you attend.
- Do your homework – Before the event, conduct some research into who will be speaking and attending the event. This way, you can maximise your time by finding the people on your list and trying to make a conversation with them. Researching speakers and attendees beforehand can also help you learn more about them, which may inspire ideas for good conversation starters.
- Preparation – Think of some conversation starters in advance of the networking event so you’re prepared and not left with awkward silences. These could be really simple questions, such as “what frequent challenges do you face in your role?” Consider how you’ll answer these questions if they ask you the same.
- Goals – What do you want to get out of the day? Before attending an event, make sure you have thought this question through. Perhaps you want to gain insight into other businesses or build a business relationship with someone from a specific industry. Decide what your goals and objectives are for each event. This will give you something to focus on when you are networking, encouraging you to meet the right people and ask the right questions.
- Don’t hard sell – During the networking event, focus on making connections rather than closing a deal. People will quickly be put off if it feels like they are talking to a salesperson. There is always time to build a relationship with your connection after the event to create a sale.
- Listen – Don’t just be a talker, be a good listener and show that you are interested in other people’s stories. There is a good chance that you will actually hear some valuable insights or interesting stories which relate to your industry.
- Get stuck in – Don’t just stand in the corner and wait for someone to come to you. Although it can be difficult to get started in a conversation, move around the room to different groups and take part in various conversations. Never interrupt people, especially those in a tight group. Look for people on their own, couples who are not face-to-face, or groups positioned in a ‘U’ shape as this allows you to get involved a little more easily.
- Mingle – Don’t just speak to the high-profile people at your networking event. These people are often very busy and won’t be able to give you too much of their time, as they’ll likely have lots of other people waiting to talk to them. Try introducing yourself to a variety of attendees in the room. You never know where they may work, what advice they might be able to give you, or what contacts they might have!
- Business cards – Even in the digital world, people still use business cards. Therefore, when you have made a connection and it is appropriate, give one out, and don’t forget to ask for theirs in return so you can stay in touch. There are a number of apps to help you to manage your collection of business cards effectively, such as CardMunch. Remember though, you should not distribute your business cards to people unless they are interested, and if possible you should have a conversation with them first.
- Follow up – After the event, make sure you connect with the valuable people you have met. Social media is the perfect tool for this task, especially networks like Twitter and LinkedIn. When you connect with people that you met at the event, add a comment to remind them of where you met and what you talked about, and mention that you enjoyed it.
- Keep networking – Once the event is over, don’t give up. Use sites such as Meetup to find more industry networking events around you. The more you network, the more confident you’ll be, so keep going!
If networking makes you nervous, focus on your goals and remember that most other people will be feeling the same way. Think of the positives as well – you never know when you might make a good friend, fine some excellent new business, or learn valuable new insights.
Once you’ve attended one event, you can relax. However, don’t stop there. The more networking events you attend, the better your networking skills will be, the more confident you will become, and the more value you will get out of each event.
There are a number of networking events in all industries across the country. Use Meetup or do a quick search on Google or the website of an industry specific association to find one near you. You never know who you might meet or what you might learn!
Do you have any more networking tips to add? We would love to hear your advice on Twitter at @SaxonsTraining!
Photo: 드림포유 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/124961070@N02/ – CC BY-ND 2.0