When you start a business, you need to meet and talk to people, as you need customers! People buy products and services from people. To do this you have to Network. I was lucky enough to attend an Introbiz event and meet the wonderful Tracey Marie Smolinski.
Tracey and her husband, Paul, are the owners of Introbiz, the largest independent professional network in Wales. I asked Tracey to share some of her top networking tips with us.
Top Tips for Networking at Events
I still remember clearly attending my first networking event and I loved it. What I noticed though, was that not everyone was a natural networker and I could see that some people were out of their comfort zone. Networking is a learned skill that needs regular practise to feel competent, confident and relaxed. If you are committed to networking and it is done right, it will work for your business.
Become a confident networker at events by following these simple tips
Be prepared. Before leaving for the event, check the venue details and parking arrangements, ensuring you have plenty of coins for the meters. Allow plenty of travel time so you arrive feeling relaxed.
Arrive early. It is much easier to enter a room with only a few people and initiate conversations with those over coffee or drinks than when everyone has made connections. This also gives you the chance to make connections before the event begins.
You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Wear something that conveys the professional image you want to portray. Body language says a great deal about a person, so stand tall, head high and smile.
Create a memorable introduction. Make your introduction short and simple avoiding ‘career terminology’. It should only be 2 or 3 sentences highlighting the benefits of what you do. It is not a time to sell. Your introduction should encourage conversation, not stop it!
Aim to connect with 2 or 3 people. Networking is not about ‘working the room’. It is better to have quality conversations with a few than the masses. You will feel far more confident in following up someone you have made a genuine connection with.
Give your business card once you have connected. There is no need to give your business card to everyone you meet as only those you have connected with will want it. Make sure your card is clean and professional, first impressions count about you .
Learn to listen to learn. Show genuine interest in others and ask questions. The one who asks the questions and listens to the answers controls the conversation.
It is not all about you! Let people talk about their favourite topic – themselves. This is not a time to sell your product or service it is a time to connect with others to see if there is some mutual benefit.
Politely enter groups with a smile. Peruse the room and look for a friendly group of people that are not too deep in conversation. Move toward them, catch someone’s eye and enter the group with a smile. Listen for a few moments to understand the conversation before contributing rather than entering and taking over.
Plan your follow up strategy. Before you leave the event, decide on how you will follow up those you made a connection with, within the next 48 hours.
So please FOLLOW UP, if you don’t, the time at the event has been a missed opportunity and you will not build up the trust with your new connections.