When you are starting out in the professional world, you may think networking is purely social, but as the years go by you learn that it’s much more than that. It is an essential part of building a successful career, and if done strategically, it can be a very powerful tool. Effective business networking is the linking together of individuals who through trust develops relationships and become walking, talking advertisements for one another.
In that sense, for quite some time, getting out and about shaking hands has been considered to be an important part of business. In fact, in the times of the Great Recession, when businesses needed to step up to get work (little to no low hanging fruit being available), meeting potential clients, finding referral sources, and getting your name out there: networking become essential for survival.
Through time we have learned a trick or two in the art of networking, and would like to share them with you:
Tip 1: Always come prepared with business cards that are easy to access.
This might sound too simple, but you wouldn’t want to be asked for your business card and find yourself desperately digging into your purse/wallet and hunting in all the little compartments feeling generally foolish. Put business cards in a shirt or pants pocket, or in a professional cardholder placed at the top of your purse/wallet. Keep them ready to go before you get to the event.
Tip 2: Be conscious.
Before you get to the networking event, sit still for a second and think about what you want to accomplish. Is there someone in particular you want to meet? Is there a type of business person or vendor you need to create a relationship with? Have a strategy in place.
Tip 3: Be kind.
If someone looks a little out of place or scared, don’t be shy to go to that person, shake their hand, ask them who they are and what they do. Know that 95% of the people in the room are uncomfortable and a little shy, just like you. Who knows, the person you meet might be a goldmine for your future.
Tip 4: Helping others needs to be part of your strategy.
Once you meet someone, ask who they are, what they do, and find out whether you can help them with a tip or referral to someone else. Sometimes it’s easier to think of helping others rather than to think about selling an idea. The person you are meeting is going to be grateful and will probably want to help you back.
Tip 5: Know your business niche.
Meeting someone new saying, “I am a transactional attorney and do a lot of estates and wills,” is kind of boring and generic. If you say, “I am a transactional attorney that helps people with their estates and tax planning and do a lot of work with people who own vintage cars,” that opens up the door for a conversation. Add a little flavor and fun to your “elevator speech.”
Tip 6: Be yourself.
Elevator speeches are boring and usually obviously rehearsed and memorized and don’t sound authentic. Avoid them.
Tip 7: Move along.
Know that everyone in the room wants to meet as many people as possible. If you meet someone that needs to know someone else in the room, make the introduction and move along. If someone seems to be glommed onto you, say, “I’m going to go get something to eat” or “Oh, there is Ted Smith. I need to talk to him. Excuse me.” And then move on. No one should get their feelings hurt. Networking events are arranged to conduct business.
If you have a tip or two you would like to share with people who are in the networking arena, please leave them here. Let’s all get to business and be more successful than ever!