We spend a lot of time on here talking about social networking, but what happened to real life, in-person networking? It still exists, and it’s still as important as ever. While social networking is an efficient way to build relationships, you still can’t beat the power of a bond forged with a good face-to-face meeting.
Networking events are still a great way to meet people who can help your business grow, whether that be potential clients, vendors, business partners…you name it. But you can’t just show up at one of these events and expect success. You have to have a good strategy in place to be successful at networking events. Here are some tips to help you out.
- Build connections before the event—In many cases, the events will have a list with contact info for everyone who has RSVP’d. Spend some time reaching out to the people on this list beforehand. Look them up on Twitter and Facebook, or shoot them an email if their email address is listed. Let them know you’ll be at the event and want to say hi.
- Show up early—Showing up early is a great way to mingle with the select few others who show up before the event starts. It also keeps you from showing up too late when everyone else is already engaged in conversations.
- Go alone—You might think it wise to go with a wingman, so you can help each other out. I advise against it. Why? Going alone forces you to get out there and mingle with others. If you go with a friend, you may wind up talking to each other the whole time and never branching out and meeting new people.
- Wear your nametag—At nearly every networking event you go to, nametags will be available. Wear yours. It lets people know who you are immediately. You could even write something creative on it under your name to really stand out (e.g.”Hire me!”).
- Quality, not quantity—You’re not there to see how many hands you can shake or business cards you can collect. You’re there to build relationships. You’re better off making a few truly meaningful connections than a dozen brief, forgettable encounters.
- Be a good listener—Too many people make networking about themselves. It’s not just about you. It’s about the other person, too. Don’t talk incessantly. Listen. And I really mean, listen. Take part in an actual conversation; don’t just wait for your turn to speak and deliver your pre-written pitch.
- Follow up—After you’ve made some good connections, you need to follow up with them. The following day, shoot an email, make a phone call, or do some adding on Twitter to those people you met. Doing this while you’re still fresh in their minds is essential to laying the foundation for a meaningful relationship.
Do you attend networking events? Why or why not?