Whether you're running a small business, or involved in an "outbound" role in your company,
you'll inevitably find yourself networking to make connections with potential clients or partners.
Making a connection at a networking event is challenging for a number of reasons:
- If you're an introvert like me, you may have to fight the natural inclination to keep to yourself;
- The size of the crowd can make it difficult to know where to start;
- Maybe you don't think you're good at introductions or small talk.
Despite the complications that might arise in a crowded event, as a business owner or representative of your company, you can make an impact with the right strategy.
Pay Attention to Others
Attempting to build a network requires a real connection with the other party. According to Keith Ferrazzi on his website, it is important to pay attention to one individual at a time. Allowing attention to wander and spending only a short time with each individual will show a lack of appreciation for others.
Take time to connect with each individual for a reasonable length of time. Pay attention to the concerns, comments and information that the other individual is offering in a conversation. It will show an interest in their business and provide valuable insight into potential partners or clients. Find things you have in common, and use them to keep the conversation going.
Offer a Business Card
A business card provides a reminder of the conversation and offers a connection to follow through with ideas offered at the event. It is possible to obtain professional business cards through Overnight Prints that are appropriate for any company. Overnight Prints offers cards in small or large quantities, making it ideal for small-business owners. According to the company website, it is possible to order 50 or more business cards at a time. I've also seen people use "Moo Cards" from Moo.com to stand out from the crowd and make more of a lasting impression.
During an event, offering a business card plays a key role in maintaining a connection. According to Ned Smith on Business News Daily, small business owners are still using business cards to make profitable connections. Smith states that business owners often make around $5,000 for every 100 cards passed out during networking.
When offering a business card at an event, wait until after making a connection. Hand a card to the other individual when they ask for contact information, details about the company or before closing the conversation. It is impolite to hand out a card without making any connection beforehand.
Every individual likes talking about their company, goals or ideas. According to Melissa Cassera on AOL, asking questions about the other person’s reason for attending an event will provide an opportunity to break the ice and obtain some information about other attendees.
Asking questions allows the other individual to talk about their company, interests, ideas or the information they hope to learn at the event. It also provides the opportunity to share as a conversation develops.
If you read about my questions for "genuine curiosity," you might get some good ideas on how to get people talking.
Follow Through After the Event
Obtaining a lasting connection requires a follow through with the individual. Following up with the other party can be as simple as sending a note, making a phone call or sending an email. A polite follow through will remind the individual of the conversation and provide the opportunity to talk in the future.
I carry around a small notepad to write down follow-up items. Some people write on the back of cards which can work -- just keep in mind that some cultures outside the USA see writing on someone else's card as a sign of disrespect. In Asia, there are a lot more rules to be aware of, so you might want to familiarize yourself with Asian business card etiquette. Which leads me to the next point...
Treat Every Individual with Respect
Respect is a key part of making an impression at any event. Even the individuals who are currently in a low position in a company can provide valuable insight or ideas. According to Keith Ferrazzi, treating every individual with respect will prevent uncomfortable situations in the future.
It is possible that an individual in a supposedly low position might become the head of a department or the CEO of a large company in the future. By treating every individual with respect, it is easier to prevent resentment or ill-feelings that will ruin a company.
Building a network and encouraging the growth of a company is not as hard as it might seem. With a few simple tricks, it is possible to create lasting connections that improve the quality and reputation of a company.
What's in your networking playbook? If you have any tips or tricks to share, I'd love to hear them - especially if you have any good stories!