If you’re an old hat at the networking game, you probably already know how to make the most of it. But, what if you’re new? Or, what if you’re never managed to get the hang of it? Most business people struggle with networking by letting fear and anxiety get in the way of success. Here’s what you need to know to make your next event a good one.
Know how to work the event. You should be ready when you show up to the event. Know who is there, who you should be talking to, and who the keynote is. This helps you prepare openers for conversations with people. Remember, this is a networking event, so you’ll want to have something relevant to say to people – something related to the theme of the event and relevant to industries that are represented there.
Mingle. Part of networking is mingling. You don’t need to flutter around like a butterfly, but you should be shaking hands and spending time with everyone. Strike up a conversation, ask a few questions, and move on.
Ask easy questions. Don’t ask people their life story. Simple questions are best, like “What brings you to the event?” and “What kind of work do you do?”
Smile. Always smile when you approach someone. There’s something very inviting about a smile.
Relax. Don’t forget to relax. A lot of people get nervous about networking events because they’re concerned about being ‘shut down’. This isn’t a place you’ll be pitching your business, so don’t get so worked up about it.
Don’t let your eyes wander when you’re talking to someone. There’s nothing ruder than looking off into space when someone is talking to you. It shows that you don’t really care about what the person is saying.
Don’t interrupt when someone else is talking. Interrupting is another bad habit. If you do this a lot, practice not doing it. It’s tempting to interrupt, especially when you don’t agree with what someone is saying or when what someone says reminds you of something that you think is important. But, listening is important too. And, people hate being cut off mid-thought.
Don’t talk politics unless you already know their position. Politics is a dicey issue. Don’t bring it up unless you’re sure of the other person’s position. Even then, don’t offer yours unless you’re OK with the possibility that you might offend the person you’re speaking with.
Don’t Pitch. This is not the place to pitch your products and services. For example, if you were working with this ice cream packaging company, you might be tempted to mention your product and how it can help the person you’re talking to.
Don’t. It’s not that you don’t have a good product. It’s that this is the improper venue. You can always hand the person your business card if they’re interested, but don’t pitch products and services.
Save that for the followup phone call.
Will Collins has managed his own small business for a few years now. An avid writer, he likes to share what he has learned by posting online. His articles can be found on small business websites blogs.