Learning how to master attending networking events can have a tremendous beneficial impact on your small business.
“Your Network is your Net Worth” Robert Kiyosaki
Building a large network is huge and the great thing about networking is anyone can do this. There’s no mandatory play book and it is our individual uniqueness that can make this extremely impactful on your business.
Good old Dr. Seuss says it best: ” Today you are YOU, that is TRUER than true. There is NO ONE alive who is YOUER than YOU!” and “Why fit in when you were born to STANDOUT”
I absolutely LOVE attending networking events and meeting new genuine people. This guide is a collection of close to 50 different entrepreneurs sharing tips on how to make the most out of networking events.
You’ll see a pattern that many share:
- Pre-networking event activities
- At the Event ideas
- Must do activities and tips After an event
Down below there’s an infographic summarizing many of these networking tips, tools you can use to enhance the experience and how to find the best networking events!
Have an amazing networking tip not shared by one of these entrepreneurs? Share your tip or suggestions below in the comments!
Dave Phillipson | Global Development | CEO Space
“Present” your business card. Don’t “stab” people with it.
Anne Kleinman | Marketing Consulting | Ad Infinitum
Here’s two best practice Networking tips:
The first is at the event, look the person in the eye and really listen to what the other person is saying. Ask questions that will help you be a giver, and do not expect to walk away from the event with business in hand.
The second is after the event, follow up, follow up and follow up. I personally follow up with everyone that I meet (as long as I can hunt down their address) with a hand written note sent by snail mail. I write the note on the top sheet of a custom printed Post-it note pad (the real ones from 3M, I want to project a quality image) and put it in an envelope that is sized to the pad, not a number 10 business envelope, with a stamp, not even a meter strip. I send probably 100 a month and I get a better than 25% response rate from people who then want to connect with me to have a further conversation. Many of these same people then refer me and become my clients
Danny Groner | Manager | Shutterstock
The best thing you can do at a networking event is make a good impression on someone, then do the requisite followup and ‘selling’ at a later point.
There’s a certain tendency people have to spread themselves out as wide as they can at an event, hoping to meet as many people as possible. This can actually get in the way of making a solid impression on any one person.
To prepare, if lists of attendees are available, you can review who will be there and make a note of the 5 or 10 people you hope to meet there. This will save you time and effort.
Above all else, though, be in the moment and make sure to appear ‘present’ at all times.
Elene Cafasso | President | Enerpace, Inc. Executive Coaching
I have 2 favorite tips to make the most of networking events:
- It’s key is to network where your potential customers are. In a big city like Chicago, where I’m located, it would be possible to do nothing else BUT networking and fill your calendar. That’s why it’s important to be selective and consciously research the makeup of different organizations and events before registering. We need to maximize the ROI on our TIME!
- Once you are at the event where your potential customers are, get really curious about the person you’re meeting. Ask a lot of questions and keep your focus on the other person. The more you focus on them, the less self-conscious you’ll be. Everyone likes talking about themselves to some extent. Don’t get really personal, but it’s definitely fair to ask them what they love most about their firm, what keeps them up at night, what’s their favorite charity, stuff like that. More personal than the basic name/rank/serial number, but not anything they wouldn’t want to see in print.
Annalise Kaylor | Social Media Speaker | Annalise Kaylor Consulting
Here’s my 2 best networking tips I give a lot of my small business clients:
Take A Photo of Your Business Card: We’ve all been in that moment where we either forgot our cards or we ran out of them too quickly. Having a photo of your card on your mobile device serves two purposes – it means you’ll never run out of cards, but it also means that when you send it to someone, via text or email, you’re also capturing *their* information at the same time. You can tag their info with notes relevant to why you want to stay in touch, so when you follow-up, you can mention something personal from that event.
Necessity is the Mother of Connection: If you’re attending a conference where networking events are scheduled, bring a power strip. Hotels and conference halls are notoriously poor at providing adequate places to charge laptops, mobile phones, and tablets. People will be thrilled to power up, and because they’re in your space, it’s a good way to connect and break the ice without the same boring small talk everyone else is making.
Melessa Washington | Owner | Smartnet Strategies
Here’s 2 great networking tips:
- Wear your own personalized name tag as it’s a conversation piece.
- Have business card app on your mobile device. I take nobody’s business cards home anymore. If you were to hand me your business card, I would open up my app, take a picture of your card and hand it back to you. I can then connect to you on LinkedIn and save your information to my contacts.
Search your mobile device for different business card apps. A widely popular one is CamCard.
Veronica L. Yankowski | Owner | VeroLuce Photography
The best tip I could give someone new to networking is consistency. No one is going to do business with you after one meeting and throwing a card in their face. People do business with those they know and trust so be sure to find a group you can regularly participate in so you can form those relationships and the business will eventually come.
Also, most people expect business to happen immediately. I found if you meet people with the intention of helping them instead of always looking out for yourself, somehow more business comes your way because people realize you are a giver and someone genuinely interested in helping others. It feels amazing to make a great connection and introduce people who do business together.
Another tip coming from a professional photographer is to add your photo to your business card. Studies show people are less likely to throw out cards with photos on them and if someone can remember your name, when they see your photo they will be reminded of that conversation and be more likely to reach out for a follow up.
Chris Loney | Fashion Stylist & Style Editor | Style In A Nutshell
Here are tips for before, during and after attending a networking event:
- Be sure to brush your teeth or have a mint. Bad breath is a networking killer.
- Dress the part to make a proper first impression. If you are a professional shoe shiner, don’t show up with dusty shoes.
- Think about quality not quantity. The goal isn’t how many cards you can get. It’s about making the right connections.
- Go to a networking event not thinking your going to sell anything. Simply go to genuinely meet people. People don’t make you money, relationships do.
- Make sure to follow up with an email or phone call to all your new contacts within 72-96 hours of the event.
- Categorize the business cards you have and/or the people you meet as potential clients, cheerleaders or collaborators for your business.
Gabe Draper | Co-Founder | MFG Referrals
My best Networking tips are:
Before the event:
- Know who’s going to be in the room. Get an invite list from the host. Research them on LinkedIn. Make sure you meet the profitable people that are attending.
- Set your goals, expectations & minimum takeaways for the event.
- Find the profitable people and ask them a ton of questions.
- If you get stuck with unprofitable people, have a polite exit strategy.
- Don’t exchange info unless there is a clear next step.
- Share your 30 Second Spiel but don’t be “pitchy”.
- Stand out!
- Follow up with the profitable people with a LinkedIn invite and a brief email note.
- Know how you can help them and how they can help you.
- Put them in a “Drip” category, monthly / quarterly / annual contact frequency.
Jodi R. R. Smith | Owner | Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting
Here’s 4 tips to make the most out of networking events:
- Arrive on time or a little early. This is not a social function, there is no such thing as fashionably late. In fact, for most professional events, the VIPs arrive early and leave early. Be there when they are there as well.
- Wear your name tag. Unless you are a household name, presume you need the introduction. A name-tag identifies you as a member of the group and shows that you belong.
- Smile first. Sam Wall was right, make eye contact and smile first so others know you are looking forward to meeting them.
- Follow up. Going to the networking event is only the beginning. Pick 2 of your newest connections to reach out to in the following week.
Acharya Sri Khadi Madama | Founder | Yours Truly, PR & Media Services
Here’s my take on networking events.
- Have a 30 sec “elevator” pitch about how much you love what you do and how it benefits your clients. (don’t do this while they are occupied-do it when they are free and not busy with someone else.)
- Follow this immediately by asking what the other person does.
- Ask them for their card and ask if its all right for you to telephone them to hear more about what THEY do.
- Then, hand them your card, while asking them if there is anything you can do to help their business.
As soon as you get a minute, write a note about the person on the back of their card so you won’t forget why you’re going to telephone them.
Special Note: If you call their office and get their voice mail, don’t leave a message. Once you leave a message you will forfeit being able to call back more than a couple of times and therefore you may lose out on actually speaking with them. Just keep ringing through until you are able to reach them. Then, make sure you’ve telephoned at a good time. If they say that they have only a couple of minutes, watch the clock and release the call on time with a lead in that you’ll reach out to them next week, etc. Once again, when you call back, don’t leave a message, but call again until you reach them.
Evan Auerbach | Community Manager | DragonSearch
Here are some Networking & Conference Learning Tips:
Phase 1: Pre-Conference
- Create a List of All Speakers
- Choose Conference Targets
- Research Speaker Times & Set Reminders
Phase 2: During the Conference
- Twitter Tracking
- Real-Time Social Monitoring
- Engage, Engage, Engage
Phase Three: After the Conference
- Read Recap Posts
- Download SlideShares/Conference Presentation Decks
- Follow Up
Stacy Goldberg | CEO & Founder | Savorfull
My tip for making the most of a networking event is try to get the guest list ahead of time and research the people that sound interesting on Linkedin so you know who you want to try to meet at the event!
Jenny Powers | Founder & CEO | Running With Heels
Here’s a few tips for what to do before, at and after a networking event:
- Give some extra thought to your outfit prior to attending a networking event. Wearing something comfortable will make you more at ease. Wearing something you really like will make you feel more confident.
- If you’re shy, wear something that can act as a conversation starter or ice-breaker. A fun tie, cuff links, or necklace will do the trick.
- Scan the news headlines before going to an event. News is something we all have in common and is easy to discuss.
- If it’s an industry event be sure to scan the headlines of an industry trade that day.
AT AN EVENT:
- Arrive early because people will have had less time to break up in groups which can be intimidating.
- Go up to someone that is alone, they will be thankful for the conversation the same way you’d be if you were in the same position.
- If you enter a room and there are groups of people talking, look at their feet. Their feet are usually pointing in the direction of the most senior person or the person controlling the conversation. Also, if someone in the group has their feet facing a different direction they tend to be less engaged with the speaker so it’s best to talk to them first.
- If you’re shy, chances are you are a good listener and people like that. Be an active listener and ask a question or two. It will show you’re really paying attention and value what they are saying.
- Need a quick-getaway to break from a conversation going nowhere? You can always excuse yourself to go to the restroom or to go to the bar. Tell them it was nice meeting them and excuse yourself. When you return, work the other side of the room.
- A well thought out follow up email is always welcome especially if you really make an effort to personalize it. Thank them for the helpful tip they shared, tell them you enjoyed the story they told, send them article you think might be of interest to them or as a follow up to something you discussed with them.
- If you are in a position to make an introduction or help someone you met, let them know. Remember, givers get!
- If you plan on sending them a Linked In request, take the time to personalize the request. Don’t use the template.
Lizzy Shaw | Owner | Lizzy Shaw Public Relations
My best networking tips are:
Before: Make sure you have a terrific, standard-sized business card that is easy to read in poor lighting (i.e., important info like your name/title, company name, your contact info all should be large enough to read against a non-busy background); the card should be matte finish with a blank or solid-color back so new contacts can write any pertinent info on the back. And make sure you bring enough cards – nothing worse than running out in the middle of the event. And bring a ball-point pen so you can write on the backs of your new contacts’ cards.
During: Have a great, short & sweet elevator pitch prepared and give it when a new contact asks “What do you do?”. Concentrate on the people you are talking to and really listen to what they have to say. If there is no logical area of intersection, politely disengage and go on to the next person. Be open and friendly – you never know who you’re going to meet and how they can help you and your business – or how you can help them with theirs. Smile.
After: Follow up with anyone interesting within 48 hours; do anything you said you would do (i.e. send materials, make a connection, set a date, etc.) by any mentioned deadline. DO NOT add any of the contacts you made to your email list unless you have their express permission!!! Someone giving you their card is NOT giving you permission to add them to your mailing list – ASK.
Vincent Ferrer | Social Media Strategist | Graphic D-Signs, Inc
A great idea for networking is right after meeting someone–follow their company Twitter and/or Facebook and drop them a quick message by name. That’s always a great way to connect in the moment or immediately following a big event, and people look to aggregate all those connections at that time anyway.
You will rise to the top.
Michael R. Degroat | Founder | Dallas Referrals Network
Here are my 6 tips for networking events:
- Building relationships is more important than collecting leads
- Don’t judge an event by how much you harvested, but by how much you planted.
- Receiving others businesses cards is better than giving out your business card.
- Show genuine interest in the other person, what they do and why they do it.
- If you attempt to sell your product or service getting to know me or asking my permission, I’ll never do business with you.
- Be on time. Be professional. Be consistent. The way you act implies the way you do business.
Alaia Williams | Founder | Alaia Williams
3 tips for making the best of a networking event:
Before: If you are attending a large event, see if there’s a hashtag you can follow. Start connecting with people online BEFORE the event so that when you arrive, you’re a step ahead. Bonus: Create your own Twitter list of the people you find who are going to the event. People will feel flattered to make your list and you’ll be someone that people look for when they show up!
During: Ask interesting questions. The #1 pet peeve I hear about networking events is about people who shove their cards into everyone’s hands and talk about themselves. When (or IF) they let you get a word in edgewise, the question that’s always asked is “what do you do?” So, try something new – ask “What brought you to this event?” “Is this your first time here?” “Have you met any interesting people here tonight?” – something that gets people to open up past the standard elevator pitch.
After: Following up is ESSENTIAL. Most of us have good intentions about follow up, but where we fail is in setting aside the TIME to follow up. When you put an event on your calendar, block off 30 mins for quick follow up time within the next 24-72 hours. Having the time blocked off means you’re more likely to take the time to process all those business cards you gathered!!!!
Billy Bauer | Marketing Director | Royce Leather
Once you have someone’s business card, make sure you follow up with them within 24 hours of the event. If there’s an obvious win-win connection with someone you’ve met at an event, call them up and invite them to lunch to explore the connection further. When you write the networking event into your calendar, also add one or two hours the following day into your calendar for follow-up so that you know you have time to complete the task
Dan Hodgson | Digital Solutions Consultant | Etude Technologies
Here’s what I do after networking events:
I like to look through business cards to remind me of who attended and what they or their business does. I then think of ways that I can help any of them out and to further their goals. This could be connecting them with someone else to establish a mutually beneficial business relationship or helping them solve a business problem they mentioned during the networking event. I had someone ask me about a specific email marketing vendor during a networking event. Since our conversation was cut short, afterwards I reached out to them via email to provide additional information and to continue where we left off during our conversation. The other party appreciated this, as I did it in a low key way without pitching any services to them. I just try to be helpful!
I also like to seek out and connect with those who I interacted with at the event afterwards on LinkedIn. Doing this helps further the business relationship and allows you to easily keeping in touch with other professionals you’ve just met.
Deborah Sweeney | CEO | MyCorporation
The best thing you can do as a business owner at a networking event is to make your elevator pitch as genuine and passionate as possible. You want to share what you love about your business without sounding sales-y and like you’re in a rush. Just relax and have a normal conversation with a new friend about what you do for a living.
If you sound excited about what you do, you’ll get other people excited about your business, too.
Parker Geiger | CEO | CHUVA Group
4 Networking Tips when attending an event:
- Before any networking event one has to have a purpose! If not, then he or she is not clear on why they are going. Is it to meet as many people as possible to build a contact list? Or is it to meet a particular person? It’s important to ensure that the purpose has been met. If one does not meet the purpose of attending then one should just stay home.
- During the event, one should be effective at answering the inevitable question, “What do you do?” It’s not an elevator speech (sales pitch). It’s a conversation, two way street; however, one should be able to adjust the conversation depending upon with whom he or she is speaking with. For example, if one were an image consultant and someone asked him or her this typical question, a standard response might be, “I am an image consultant.” A more advanced response to a VP might be, “I help professionals enhance his or her visibility, image and performance in the workplace. The latter is a great way to encourage continued conversation.
- During the event use “Elaborate Techniques” in conversation to encourage others to participate more in the conversation. Basically, this allows others to elaborate on what the person is speaking about. For example, if someone says, “I am going to Miami this weekend,” an “Elaborate Technique” response might be, “I am from Miami, would you like to know a great place to go for dinner, off the beaten path?” This keeps the conversation going, as opposed to one turning the conversation to being all about them.
- Follow up: It’s important to do what you say you are going to do. With those you meet, let him or her know how you will follow up with them. Is it to reach out to them on LinkedIn, email or a call about scheduling a lunch? Lack of follow up is not good business. Again, if one does not use this critical aspect of networking, then he or she should stay home!
Dimple Thakkar | CEO & Impresario | Synhergy Marketing LLC
Nobody doubts the value one receives from business networking.
Many benefits come from it: the ability to fuel referrals, build relationships, brand your company, form strategic partnerships and more. However, there is a fine line between smart networking and just networking. In my industry, for example, it’s productive when I go places my social media competitors won’t be. Often times, I find myself networking with financial advisors, attorneys and CPAs. Why? Because CEOs often turn to people in their inner-circle for guidance and advice before they’ll look anywhere else.
Network smarter. Network strategically. Gain the trust of those who influence the people in positions at companies who make decisions.
Alex Zorach | Founder and Editor | RateTea
I’m founder and editor of RateTea, a social review site for tea drinkers. I attend trade shows and tea festivals, as a way of networking for RateTea.
I find networking to be a bit of a “zen thing”. If you go into it trying to get something out of every interaction, you can come across as a self-promoter and turn people away. I instead recommend asking people about what they do, listening, and finding ways to help them, connecting them with people and businesses in your network. I find that most people will go out of their way to help me once I’ve shown a sincere desire to help them, and if not, I’ve still gotten the pleasure and satisfaction of helping them as well as others in my network.
Lindsay B. Shearer | President | PHM-Preventative Holistic Medicine
Most small business owners have been to some sort of networking event. Whether it’s a big name organization like BNI or Chamber of Commerce or a small local group meeting at a church or business to network. Having tried out just about every group you can imagine, I’ve learned a few simple tips that have helped me connect and get some serious referral partners that have helped both myself and my new connections grow our businesses!
Don’t go for quantity of meetings but go for QUALITY. Sometimes it’s overwhelming when you walk in and feel the stress or pressure of a place filled with people and your desire is to really connect and grow your business. Don’t focus on the quantity of meetings you’re going to have, but focus on really connecting with the few people you actually do get to meet.
Listen really well and draw out the person’s “need”. How can you help them fill it. In the end, that’s what good relationship marketing is all about– Making a relationship, Being AUTHENTIC!
We’ve all met those people at networking events that are clearly forcing interaction for whatever reason, nerves, fear, or God forbid they are just fake and not someone you want to spend time with anyway. Don’t make this mistake. Enjoy the evening. Imagine you are there with friends or better yet bring a group of friends to fall back on and get a better bang for your buck of meetings by dividing and conquering. Honor your initial reaction- Are you drawn to someone there? Then go talk to them!!! The ice is already broken because you’re both there with the intention of building your businesses. It’s likely you’ll have a lot more in common with them then if you force yourself to treat the event like an assembly line at a factory and just go down the line of people.
One authentic connection is better than 100 folks you’ll never see again. Networking is an art form. It’s all about communication, finding a person’s need and genuinely filling it, or connecting them with someone who can fill their need. Connectors are some of the highest valued folks in the marketplace!
Joe McCullum | Owner | Eagles' Wings Business Coaching
If you are planning to build business by networking you have to network. How much simpler can you get than that. Yet I repeated go to open events like Business After Hours sponsored by local Chambers of Commerce or similar and I see so much that is not business networking. I see the socialist who wants a conversation with those he or she already know and with which he is comfortable. I also see the salesman who may as well carry a cash register in his pocket because every conversation is a sales pitch.
There are two groups of people at one of these open networking events. The hopefully smaller group is staff, both those from the venue who is hosting the event and those from the chamber who are managing the event. The second, hopefully larger, group are without exception people who are there to network with other business people. This second group are either business owners who want to meet potential clients or strategic partners or they are employees who are there because their boss wants them to meet potential clients or strategic partners. There is not a group there who came for the purpose of socialization, or one who came to go shopping.
My best tip for networkers, especially those that go to these open events, is LISTEN. Make it a habit of learning at least twice as much about your conversation partner as you share about yourself. I guarantee that almost without exception, if you ask a few interested questions your conversation partner will turn the table and ask about you and your business. And of greater value, they will ask most of the time because they want to know. You have a willing and receptive audience. In case you are wondering how to find interested questions to ask, prepare yourself for another profound answer; be interested in what their company is and what they do. When you become more interested in learning about them than your interest in spewing your sales pitch on them, you will master the art of networking.
Justin W. Boggs | CEO | Signature E-Cigarettes
Every conference that I attend has a registered attendee list, and it is so important that you take the time to do your due diligence. Discover your ideal clients, by qualifying them, before you ever get to the conference or event. To that end, you can create specific marketing targeted towards these folks specifically.
Then, search them out at the event, and by this point, you are likely to have remembered the names of the attendees from that company. Trust me, this preparation is huge.
A second tip, that essentially piggybacks off of the first is to schedule lunches and dinners around the conference schedule, and call ahead of time to make reservations. Once you have identified your target customers that are going to be at the event, call them ahead of time and let them know that you have already made reservations, and would love to invite them out. Now you will know ahead of time that you will get some very real opportunities to engage with your target customers in a better setting where there isn’t so much sensory overload.
Now here is the trick, if possible, invite some current clients to the dinner as well. This way, as folks are mingling and having a good time, your potential clients find out how your current clients know you. Lends to your credibility.
Now for Networking specific event, like a cocktail hour, or a chamber of commerce type event, Do Not try and meet everybody there and think that because you have gathered all of the business cards that the event was productive. Reserve yourself to focusing on building 2, maybe 3 solid relationships. Stay focused on those people, and always maintain eye contact. It is often easy to let your eyes wonder off to every new person walking in, but when that happens, it can easily be taken as a sign of disrespect to the person you are already talking to.
Mary C. Kutheis | Performance Improvement Specialist | Real Contentment
This is one that’s relevant to everyone from newbie networkers to veterans who need a different approach.
- Ask more than tell.
- Listen more than talk.
- Focus more on being interested than being interesting.
More than likely everyone at a networking event is looking for business. Networkers need to get serious about building real relationships instead of saying they want to do so because they know it’s the right thing to say and then fire-hosing people with information about what they have to sell.
Stacy Lindenberg | Owner | Talent Seed Consulting, LLC
Here’s what I’d recommend doing before, at and after a networking event:
Before an Event:
- Do some research about who is attending. The rsvp list (if invited online) and other clues may help you anticipate who you could expect to meet.
- Invite a friend. As long as the event is relevant to them, they have a opportunity to meet new people, while having the comfort of knowing they will have someone to talk to. By teaming together, you may have an easier time of making introductions, starting conversations, and you’ll have an even better time!
- Reach out to the organizer. If appropriate, ask if there is anything you can do before the event to help. Many nonprofits, small business incubators, and networking groups are run by volunteers. Offer to show up early and give them a hand if you can. Just make sure to honor that commitment. You’ll meet new people, and your help will be appreciated.
At the event:
- Resist the temptation to jump right into conversations with questions like “What do you do?”…there’s nothing wrong with that question, but it gets old. Instead, ask others how they became involved with the event or organization, how it compares to others they’ve been to, etc.
- Don’t be a business card collector. Although you should follow up after an event with anyone you had meaningful conversation with, wait to exchange business cards until you’ve established a connection or the person has expressed an interest in continuing to stay in touch. Otherwise, you can come off as pushy.
- Thank the event organizer. Again, sometimes the people behind the scenes don’t get enough credit for the hard work it takes to create an event. Take time to introduce yourself, learn more about the organization if possible, and thank them for their efforts.
- Follow up with anyone that you met that you’d like to stay in touch with. Don’t push your product or business, simply thank them for the opportunity to talk with them, and include a courteous note or reference to your discussion. This isn’t time for a sales pitch.
- If you met someone with mutual interests, or that you had a great time talking with, ask how you can help them. Too often people use these events to find prospects, and don’t focus on relationship building. By helping others, you differentiate yourself and add value to the relationship.
- Finally, it can’t hurt to thank the organizer with a simple note. You never know how you might be able to assist them in the future, and they will appreciate the acknowledgement.
Rana Campbell | Creative Brand Strategist | Rana Campbell
My networking tip: Pay It Forward
When someone takes the time to speak to you, make sure you think of ways that you can be of use to them. When I interned at a digital marketing agency this past summer, I immediately knew that my long-term mentors from CBS Communications, Gabrielle Simpson, had to meet one of my supervisors, Amirah Mercer, a content strategist. I was able to connect the two and like I thought, they hit it off because they shared similar interests and goals. Both Gabrielle and Amirah have been able to connect beyond me now and are now great professional contacts. Offer to give something of value to those who connect with.
They’ll appreciate it and will remember you when an opportunity comes around.
Dave Davies | CEO | Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization, Inc.
“If you’re drinking, drink less than the person across from you.” I’ve seen ignoring this go horribly wrong.
Mike Harden | Executive Coach | Executive Coach DC
Most people go to a networking event and expect other people to hand them their business card, do an obligatory exchange of cards, and then never see them again. I believe in connecting, not networking.
I coach my business owners to first strike up a conversation about the person rather than their business (Where are you from originally? Do you have family here? Where did you go to school?) and then ask about their business.
Get to know the person at a personal level. Determine if you like the person, if there is chemistry, and whether you and the other person can do business together. If everything looks good, follow up the next day with an email saying how nice it was to meet them, and how you would like to get together for coffee or lunch to learn more about their business.
I have never had anyone say “no.” Develop a connection and take it from there.
Jen Dalton | CEO | BrandMirror
For networking events, instead of thinking of them as awful and stressful, think of it as going to meet really interesting people that could change your life. Have fun with it.
- Always make sure you have enough business cards
- If possible research people attending the event and who you would like to meet (follow them on Twitter beforehand so it is easier to tweet at the event)
- Tweet and share the event and highlight the value – always good to recognize others (make sure you know the hashtags/ handles that you could use ahead of time)
During the Event:
- Introduce yourself and really ask the people who they are, what they do and understand if there is someone you can help them at the moment. Add value to their evening.
- Do get business cards from others and provide yours too – always make an offer to help or suggest grabbing coffee – you are being helpful and also not making anything a big deal.
- Take pictures at the event, of speakers, or of you with interesting guests – so you can write about it later in an insightful blog, or Tweet it during the event (provided people are ok with that).
Post the Event:
- Follow up and let them know you enjoyed meeting them and follow through on any offers you made. Sometimes I take notes on the business cards to make sure I do not forget.
- Use an App for the business cards so they go digital and you do not lose them. Also, connect with them on LinkedIn, and please write your own intro do not use the generic LinkedIn intro.
- Write about interesting things from the event or what you learned – create and share helpful content.
Davina K. Brewer | Business Consultant | 3Hats Communications
We all know to bring plenty of biz cards to an event, to follow up after via LinkedIn or Twitter.
The real trick is being memorable when you do, so they’ll take that call or reply to that email. Stop selling and start listening, that’s how you make a connection. Focus on them not you, not what you can sell them – what you can do to help them.
And don’t be afraid to go ‘off topic’ and act like a person (smartphone tucked away) – I break the ice much easier when talking about holiday, vacation plans or joking about making it home in time for X show on TV. FWIW.
Susan Bender Phelps | Author | Odyssey Mentoring
Ditch your elevator speech.
Listen to the people you meet instead. Be interested in them and what they do. The most fascinating people in the world are those who are interested. Ask questions so that you can determine if they or their business is a match for you. Then set up a meeting to discuss further how you can help each other. You’ll have thirty minutes or more to tell your story and solidify the benefits of doing business together.
If you meet someone who is a potential resource for you, get their information and make a note of why you kept their card or inputted their contact info on your phone.
Christopher Tompkins | CEO | The Go! Agency
My number one networking tip is to complete the networking circle on social media sites like LinkedIn. If you meet someone at a networking event that you have a professional synergy with, make sure to get their business card.
Using the business card, invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn using the email address on their business card. This way you can continue your networking and referral base online well after the event is over.
Heath Suddleson | President | Executive Achievement, LLC
Perhaps the biggest tip in networking is to go to a networking event hoping to meet only 5 people. Your goal is to spend a about 5-7 quality minutes with each of these 5 people. No one will buy from you if they don’t like you and trust you, and they can’t do that if they don’t know you. Seek out those people in the room who seem to be the best connected. These are the people who have a crowd around them. Don’t try to sell them or tell them what services you offer. Instead spend the time getting to know them. At the end of the conversation, ask how you can help send some business their way. This will get their attention and start to build the like and trust feelings.
Immediately after the event, send them a handwritten note saying it was nice to meet them and that you look forward to sending them some referrals. Include your business card, of course.
Follow up with them in 1-2 weeks just to touch base and see how they are. Perhaps even suggest a time to meet to discuss how you might help each other build business.
This takes a while to cultivate these relationships, but these relationships will bear more results than going in trying to sell to 100 people in the room. If you go in trying to carve steaks, you miss the opportunity to get the milk over the long run. You may enjoy a couple of quick sales, but sustained business relies on sustained relationships.
Ivoire & Rejeana | Founder | Instant Results Events
3 tips for networking a room:
- Walk into the room on an imaginary figure eight. This ensures maximum visual of everyone who is within 4 feet.
- Repeat back the name of the person introducing themselves to you and when you bid farewell. This helps you remember and lets them know that you were listening vs that awkward “tell me your name again”.
- Pause for at least three seconds before commenting. This gives you time to collect your thoughts.
Greg Jenkins | Partner | Bravo Productions
BEFORE AN EVENT
Tip: Think about everyone attending the networking function as a potential business opportunity. You never know who knows who.
DURING THE EVENT
Be a good listener. Many people attend networking functions and attempt to push their product and services like walking into an automobile dealer lot. When you listen, you also will know how to engage the person and perhaps find some commonality to start building a relationship.
AFTER THE EVENT
Send an email to those attendees that you met and want to start a potential relationship. Don’t pester the person, allow the relationship to build. If it was meant to be, it will happen.
I also omitted some of the basic tips such as having enough business cards, breath mints; refrain from using profanity, talking politics, religion or controversial subjects that can lead to heated debates, etc.
Terri Schepps | CEO | Retention Practices for Smart Businesses
3 Best Tips for when attending a Networking Event:
- Get business cards and connect with those you met on Linked In
- Exchange social media links – makes it much easier to learn about each other’s business
- Encourage those you meet to ask if they ever need a referral for a service or product – be remembered for giving out referrals
Bianca Welds | Entrepreneur | Bianca Welds
The best tip I can offer is to learn people’s names and then introduce them to other people at the event. You become the person who knows everybody and people will remember you. I wrote a blog post on how I learned the names of nearly 50 people in 1 day.
Stephen Robert Morse | Head of Marketing | SkillBridge
Always bring more business cards than you that you’ll need. I was recently at an event and I literally went through 50 business cards. it was like speed dating.
But it also really helped my business to get those contacts.
Ryan Turner | Owner | 3Prime, LLC
Everyone has a business card, which you should have, but take an extra step with a printed postcard for a specific product/service you are representing!
Tip: One-up the business card with a printed postcard
Postcards fit into jacket pockets so they’re easy to carry. They aren’t unwieldy like pamphlets and they provide an excellent opportunity to furnish the people you meet with a physical reminder of something you discussed.
Kevin Redmond | Strategy Coach | The Redmond Institute
The best networking tips is first have a candid opener. So rather than just walking up to someone and saying hello, ask their opinion on something.
- Everyone loves giving their opinion.
- But also have a time constraint. Something that will get you out of a conversation if needs be.
- And finally something that demonstrates higher value. So why should this person want to talk to you.
My opener goes along the lines of…
‘I’m making a beeline for that coffee over there but let me get your opinion on something, I was talking to a CEO over lunch the other day and he asked if I had a training course for spotting deception in the workplace. To be honest I was a bit uncomfortable that he was even thinking that way. What do you think?’
Tina Arnoldi | Consultant | 360 Internet Strategy
Here’s a couple networking event ideas:
When it’s available, I like to look at a list of attendees that will be at the event and pick out a few people that I especially want to meet. The thing to NEVER do is go up to them and start selling. I look for something in common or something I genuinely appreciate about their work so I can share that with them.
I also like to make a follow up connection where we may meet over coffee or have a short phone call about the services we provide.
Philip Mandel | Certified Health Coach | Take Shape for Life
The best way to approach networking events is thinking, “How can I be of service today?”
In other words, make it all about “them” — THEIR businesses, THEIR sales, THEIR needs.
The more you focus on them, the more you will learn about them. And, the more trust you will garner FROM them. If and when they ask, “So, what do YOU do,” then and ONLY then do you have the opportunity to share your business with them. By then, they LOVE you because you have been focusing on THEM the whole time. And, you will already know if your offering would be of any value to them.
Example: You’re speaking with a slender, fit person, and your offering is weight loss. Guess what: there’s no match! On the other hand, if you have garnered their trust by focusing on THEM first, they may say, “I don’t need to lose weight, but my cousin sure does!
Mike Wolfe | Co-Founder & CEO | WAM Enterprises
My best tip for networking events is to follow up via LinkedIn rather than send a follow up e-mail. This allows your connection to be ongoing instead of an email exchange which usually leads to nowhere. If you’re sharing content on LinkedIn, your new connection will see your content and it’s a great way to passively stay in touch with them.