Business Networking is Easy!
“How do you make networking look so easy?”
When Melina asked me this question during the ‘I Work For Me’ podcast interview, my first thought was: do I make it look easy?
Personally, I love networking. I love meeting new people, understanding their business and identifying opportunities to connect them to others. But I’d be lying if I said it’s always come easily to me. As with everything, I believe that one’s ability to network effectively gets better – and easier – with practice.
The truth is, stepping into a room full of people you don’t know can be overwhelming. Especially when you’re there to network and your intentions are to leave with meaningful connections.
When I started out, I wasn’t able to stroll up to a stranger and say: so, what do you do? How can we help each other? What are you looking for right now?
If I could go back and give my past-self advice, this is what I’d say. I hope some of these tips help you step into your next networking event with a little less worry too.
Prepare, prepare, prepare!
- Understand why you’re going, and set a goal
Are you networking to grow your database? Build a relationship with future customers/ suppliers? Meet some new people? Whatever you’re there for: understand it and set a relevant goal.
- Prepare your elevator pitch
First impressions count. You don’t want to be the person giving a 5 minute response to the question “what do you do?”.
Prepare a 30 – 60 second explanation of who you are, what you do and what you’re looking for. While you’re at it, figure out a way to differentiate yourself from the other people in the room.
- Engage in purposeful small talk
Don’t waste time chatting about politics and the weather: research who will be at the event you’re going to, who you want to connect with and how you’re going to go about it. Do you have common interests with them? Do your businesses seem like they’d work well together?
“Hi [their name], I’m [your name] from [company name]. I’d love to talk to you about [why you’re interested in talking to them].”
- The early bird catches the worm (or, in this case: the early bird gets comfortable)
Arrive early. It’s easier to welcome (and spot) new arrivals, show them where the coffee is and strike up a conversation than show up late, spend the first five minutes looking for a seat or something to drink and only then begin to wonder how you’re going to talk to anyone already there.
- Be friendly
If you see someone standing on their own, don’t be afraid to approach them. Here are some easy conversation starters:
“Hi. I’m [your name] from [company name].
- Have you been to a network meeting before?
- What do you do?
- Who’s your ideal connection?
- Who’s your ideal client?
- “How can I help you?”
Most people network thinking, ‘what can I get out of this?’. Turning the tables and asking how you can help them means people are more likely to be intrigued and remember your kindness.
- Follow up
After the meeting, determine who will be beneficial to your network, connect on social media platforms and arrange a coffee date to get to know them better.
The key to networking, for me, is building relationships. I like to remember that a network meeting is only as good as the results of a follow up.
Once you are building your network with intent and your goal in mind, put a communication strategy in place so you can build on those relationships. Decide on how often, and what the communication format will be.
Whenever you can, help those in your network. In this way, you’ll remain top of mind to them, and the idea is that this will be reciprocated.
Above all, the more often you go to meetings, the more often you will reap the rewards and the easier it will become.
Find Pam on Pam@printlogic.co.za or www.printlogic.co.za