Here are my tips for making the most out of the networking experience:
1. Think about what you want from the meeting
If you’ve thought about this before you go along, you’re more likely to get what you want out of it. Do you want to find a specific type of person to collaborate with? Are you trying to get advice on how to reach a particular type of client? Do you have a special offer or event to promote?
2. Prepare your “sixty seconds” speech
Being able to succinctly describe what you do and who you help is the key to making useful connections. If you’re new to networking, introducing yourself to others is a great way of honing this. Don’t worry if you have to do this in front of a group – everyone was new to networking once!
3. Take cards and leaflets
Take cards with your contact details on them. Even if you haven’t yet settled on a brand or company name, it’s important to let people know how you can be contacted. And you could create a simple leaflet with a summary of your products or services, which will remind people what you do.
4. Take a pen and a notebook!
You never know who you might meet or what kind of information they might want to share. Don’t forget to have a pen or notebook handy, or a suitable notes app on your phone.
5. Share information and tips
Networking isn’t about just launching yourself at people and telling them all about what you do. It’s about chatting, building relationships and finding out if they have any business problems that you or someone else could help with. If you’ve come across an article or a person they would find interesting or useful, offer to send them details. Brainstorm a few ideas with them while talking. These kinds of things will make you memorable.
6. You don’t have to talk to everyone
Some events you’ll go to there will be a small number of people and you can interact with them all. But at most events you won’t be able to talk to everyone. Just go along hoping to have one interesting conversation, and consider anything else a bonus. Don’t feel any pressure to collect a whole pile of business cards – just chat to people who seem interesting.
7. Follow up after the meeting
Some groups actively encourage members to set up 1:1 meetings with people they’d like to talk to in more detail. Even if you don’t want to meet up with other people right now, send a quick email to let them know it was nice to meet them. If you’d promised to share some information, send it to them promptly.
8. Connect on social media
Many groups have social media pages or groups, or have forums on their websites. Connect with these to get more out of your networking – joining in conversations and sharing information is a brilliant way of making yourself and your expertise known.
Twitter is also a useful way of finding new contacts, with weekly chats and opportunities to find other local businesses. (If you haven’t delved much into the world of Twitter, I might be able to assist. Contact me for details of my 1:1 Twitter training, or my Twitter self-study course) Go onto Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram and connect with the people you’ve met – sometimes all sorts of opportunities come up just by interacting on social media.
Is there anything else you think is essential for a first time networker to know? Do comment below and share your experiences.