Networking is scary for most of us, mainly due to fear of rejection or looking stupid (my opinion). I even have a hard time with it and I’m considered by my friends to be sociable. How to network successfully takes some savvy. Here are a few tips that have worked for me:
- If you’re going directly from work, take five minutes to visit the restroom to freshen up before you leave your office.
- Make sure the outfit you choose to wear best represents your professional image and brand. Instinctively we all know when we’re under dressed or overdressed.
- When you introduce yourself to someone say your full name (first and last).
- Give a firm handshake (practice on a friend to get this right, it’s important) you don’t want a limp handshake or one that’s a death grip.
- Bring at least 50-100 business cards with you (depending on the size of the event, you don’t want to run out of cards).
- Have your business cards either in your hand, an accessible pocket or business card holder ready to give out.
- Memorize your message points so that you aren’t stumbling over your words. Have them narrowed down to 10-15 seconds. Practice regularly at your home or office.
- Stay hydrated while networking and don’t network on an empty stomach!
- Eye contact shows that you are interested, it’s polite, and automatically engages you in the conversation. Keep eye contact until you leave the conversation.
- After a person is finished introducing themselves and their business, state what you do and what your business is about. If he/she doesn’t ask further questions say, “It was nice meeting you,” then move onto the next person. No need to stick around and go into detail about what you do if they aren’t interested.
- If you find someone’s business interesting but don’t want to lose time networking with others say, “I’d like to continue our conversation further. Can we speak towards the end of the event or can I give you a call tomorrow?”
- The point of a networking event is to “network”…don’t get comfortable or stuck with one or two people the entire time. Hence tip #11 above.
- Follow up the next day with people you are interested in developing a professional relationship with via email or even a phone call.
- During your correspondence, ask if it would be okay to add them to your email newsletter before sticking them on.
Post Event: Follow up immediately via email, stating how nice it was to meet at the event. If you want to add them to your newsletter or email list – ask if it would be okay to add them. Most times they’ll respond positively. If you can, send a thank you note to the host of the mixer or event.