Networking events can be extremely rewarding for your business as they provide you with a chance to meet other like-minded business owners and influential people together in one environment, that you may not otherwise meet. By attending a business networking event, you are opening yourself up to a room full of opportunities, not just a room full of people!
There are various rewarding benefits that you can get by attending business networking events.
When you are looking for ways to grow your small business, in-person networking usually ranks as one of the top strategies. Online networking and social media are the trends right now, but when you meet people in person you accelerate the process of building relationships. While networking events can be an exciting way to make new connections, being in a room full of strangers can be quite intimidating even for the biggest extroverts. If you are planning to take your small business to the next level,
1) Prepare your mind
Be positive and open to listening and learning. Look for opportunities how you can help others. Don’t be pushy or abrupt during the event. This is your chance to make a good first impression.
2) Work on your body language
Be aware and conscious of your bodying positioning. Standing tall, smiling and being relaxed is important to be approachable. Avoid slouching, crossing your arms, yawning, or keeping your head down. These actions signal that you’re closed, defensive, bored or insecure and will work against you while you try hard to start a conversation.
3) Plan your outfit
Consider planning what you would wear for the event at least one or two days before the event as your appearance will send out a message about you as well as your business. Choosing something professional and appropriate for the event theme and location is the ideal way to figure out what is the best outfit for the occasion. If the event is in a far off place, consider the weather there to be properly dressed for the conditions.
4) Set your goals for the event
Before you head out for the event, get clear on your objectives so you can optimize your words and actions both before, during and even after the event. Write down what you hope to accomplish in the event and the type of people you would like to connect with during the event. If you do not have access to the attendee's list, form “types” of people you are looking for like potential clients, partners, media etc. In case you do have the attendees list then identify specific individuals you would like to connect with. Exploring those goals further is important to get a clarity of your objectives from the event.
Without this process, you might not be able to verify whether you have been successful in the event.
5) Prepare your elevator pitch
Once you have your goals set for the event, prepare an elevator pitch on who you are and what you do. Once done, practice is over and over to get comfortable sharing out loudly with someone else. This will help you answer questions about your business and appear confident. Often, business owners get carried away when asked about their work and end up sharing too much. Elevator pitch will help to keep it concise and cover all the relevant information that you would like to pass on.
6) Research the people you want to meet
Once you are able to list down specific people from the speakers and event attendees that you would like to meet and connect with during the event, it is a good idea to research a little on them and their businesses. Knowing about them will not only help you strike a conversation with them but also have an engaging and meaningful conversation. The information you gather maybe through their LinkedIn pages, Google etc. can be important weapons to have productive and memorable conversations both for you and them.
7) Reach out in advance
If you've researched the folks you're most interested in meeting, you can send them a personal email or connect with them on LinkedIn to let them know that you will be there as well, and you are interested in connecting. If the event is a large conference with an app or a designated Facebook Group or other community, consider posting an introduction there as well, to maximize your visibility with fellow attendees. You need not wait for the event to start connecting.
8) Carry the right tools
Remember to carry the right tools that you might require during the networking event like your business card, printed brochure, notepad, pen etc. By being equipped with these materials you will come across as an organized and resourceful person which will leave a positive impact on the people you interact with.
9) Identify ways to increase your confidence
If you are nervous, try approaching smaller groups or individuals at first. Also, figure out people or group that would make you feel comfortable with.
10) Recruit a friend
If networking events give you butterflies in your stomach then try bringing one of your friends. This will boost your confidence. Feedback from your friend after the event can help you improve yourself. Once you feel confident you can start attending the events all by yourself. However, remember you are there to make new connections. Do not end up just talking to each other.
11) Be prepared for rejections
No matter how fantastic you are, there might be people who reject to have a conversation with you. Do not let it ruin your day. Move on and approach others who are more welcoming and have some value to add. Also, do not remove your frustration on others or the same person. You never know when your paths cross and turn out into an opportunity in future.
12) Be yourself
If you don’t be yourself you will be starting off a relationship on a lie. The people you connect with when you are authentic are the ones you will want to stay in touch with.
13) Set reasonable expectations
When attending an event, understand what you are there to do. Is your goal to meet five new people? or Is it to meet one or two specific people? These are all reasonable expectations and it takes a little pre-planning to set these goals.
14) Arrive for the event early
This will help you to be one of the first attendees that people will connect to. Arriving late, on the contrary, will mean having a room full of people already engaged with each other and you might have to struggle to get into a conversation. Also, it is not favorable to walk in when a speaker is speaking. It also gives you enough time later in case you want to approach someone again during the event.
15) Wear a name tag
Wearing a name tag serves a good purpose as it makes it much easier for people to remember your name and your company. Spend some time before the event to get a name tag printed with your name and company logo.
16) Make connections before the event
Some events share the list of speakers and attendees before the event. It is a good idea to email the people you are interested in meeting during the event. This will help you have few known people in the room when you enter the event and help you get started. In case the list is not available, you can search for people attending the event through social media and connect with them.
17) To drink or not to drink?
Few of the networking events include alcoholic drinks. While it is fine to have one or two drinks never go overboard. Networking for business is a professional event and you would people to take you seriously.
18) Look for commonalities
Being able to make small talks is necessary to keep a conversation rolling during a networking event. Know what are the things you have in common with the person. Ask open-ended questions are another way to keep it going.
19) Know when to move on
Many times a conversation with someone can get dull. Don’t let an awkward silence take over the moment when the conversation feels like it is over, politely says “It’s been nice meeting you.” and move on.
20) Introduce yourself to the organizer
One of the best ways to start is by introducing yourself to the organizer. He or she can, in turn, help you with the people you might be interested and also introduce you to the right people and set you in the right direction.
21) Focus on quality conversations over quantity of connections
22) Create a contact information strategy
During most of the networking events, contact information that you collect is disorganized and inconsistent. You may get a business card from one person or a scribbled name and number on a napkin from another. Making meaningful follow-ups after the event might get difficult for you so spend some time to figure out how you would like to collect this valuable information.
Having dedicated sheets to help someone share their contact details will be ideal. You can even print a small layout asking for details usually found on a business card like their name, company name, contact number, email ID and location can be useful to collect a uniform data. Another practice which can help during follow up is to scribble briefly about the conversation you have had with the person behind his business card or the paper with their information.
23) Follow up post event
Make sure you make a follow up the next day of the event. Whether it is a simple phone call or an email, it will make a lasting impression. Plan how you would like to do your follow up before you go for the event. Having a brief reference to your conversation with the person in your follow up will help the person to remember you and take the conversation ahead. Keep your follow up relevant. If you promised to share some information or get back to the person on something during the event, ensure you do so while sending follow up emails to everyone.
24) Have fun and enjoy meeting people
Networking is fun. Remember that you are there to make and establish new relationships. Avoid making a hard sell.
25) Become a regular face at the event
Start out by trying various events in your workspace and filter down to a couple of them that you would like to be part of. Networking is a lot more fun when you are doing it with the same people and don’t have to start from scratch for every event. Also, it can lead to people introducing you to new attendees making your work all the more easier.
These tips will prepare you to attend your next networking event. Just trust yourself and freely speak to people around. You might not crack it during your initial events but you will surely get better with the more networking events that you attend and boost your small business effectively.
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