Posted on: October 30, 2023
It’s that time of year again when business events ramp up in the build-up to the Christmas season. Providing plentiful networking opportunities; they can help you forge meaningful connections and strengthen your network with valued contacts.
Many people we speak with are, however, are nervous about networking. In this article, we share 3 essentials to help you a) make a good impression, b) create valuable contacts and c) ensure the time you invest in the event is worthwhile.
1. Show genuine interest in those you meet
Showing interest in what people say and being curious about their work and interests is a surefire way to impress them. Be welcoming and confident when you introduce yourself – and avoid going into a big sell or being too self-deprecating. Remember, those first impressions count and should be positive. Start with a non-business conversation to warm things up.
Always try and ask about the other person’s business/ work first before going into detail about your own. You can then tweak how you describe what you do in terms of expertise/work to really interest them.
Ensure you look interested in and listen to what they have to say. At all costs, avoid looking around the room to assess who you want to speak to next, as this can come across as you being uninterested. Some networking events can be very noisy, but if people feel you are listening to them, they’ll trust you more and tell you more. Make sure you ask relevant questions to find out more about them.
A common mistake is focusing purely on people you think you could do business with directly. Experienced networkers will tell you that often talking to someone who has similar clients to you (but offers a different expertise) can prove a valuable referrer. Also, think broadly about those you could collaborate with too.
Remember, the goal is to build rapport and find out about the contact – not come away with an order for a specific service. If you focus on building trust and reassurance first, the new work opportunities will flow in over time.
2. Find a way to keep in touch
For this first meeting to blossom into a positive professional relationship, you will need further contact points with this person. From what you’ve both discussed, think about a way to keep in touch – for example, sending them a relevant article, arranging a coffee with them to learn more about their work/ organisation/ project, getting back to them with an answer to a specific question/issue they’ve raised.
Be bold, ask for the person’s business card and look at it when you get it. Don’t immediately put it away – it can imply you’re not interested. Often at events people will suggest connecting on LinkedIn too and may provide you with a QR code to connect too.
Finding a way to keep in touch makes the following point much easier.
3. Impress them with your follow-up
How many times have you been to a networking event and someone said they would reach out to you, but didn’t? Successful networkers know it’s not just about what happens in the room, but how these initial introductions and conversations then progress.
Keep your promise and deliver in the timeframe you said. Consider the best approach to transform this fleeting encounter into an enduring professional relationship. For example, by
· Crafting personalised follow-up emails that leave a lasting impression
· Leveraging social media platforms to maintain connections
· Setting up face-to-face or online meetings
· Making that call
Whatever you choose, make sure your follow-up is beneficial to your contact. They have got to view it as relevant and worthwhile, if you are to have any chance of strengthening your professional relationship with them.
Networking events can help you strengthen your network and generate new business opportunities. Look at them as a chance to meet interesting people, nurture potential leads, and explore possible opportunities for collaboration. At the same time, recognise this is only step 1 of the journey for becoming a valued professional contact to them. Use your time with them at the event to set up the next point of contact. If you do, the time you’ve invested today will be worthwhile tomorrow.