So, once you’ve found a networking event, how do you get the most out of it? There are many networking “experts” who can teach you the finer points of generating business from a room of people. But the general rules seem to be very simple;
Pick the right events
If you need to meet plastics manufacturers, find out where they meet and go along. Look up trade associations or check relevant trade media.
Do some research
Try to get hold of a list of people who will be there and look them up. Identify your targets so you can bring some focus to the event.
Learn how to strike up a conversation
After a few events, you will soon learn how to move around a room and introduce yourself to new people. Study the body language of people talking – if they are facing each other and passionately debating a point, they are unlikely to welcome your intrusion. But two people making light chit chat and scanning the room are ready to meet someone new.
Keep the conversation going
The best networkers listen intently, and always have something to talk about. Read relevant media to keep up-to-date with industry news. And when a conversation is over, don’t be scared to politely leave to meet others. It feels unnatural to work a room in this way, but it’s what everyone is there for.
Make your business cards work hard
Ensure your business card accurately describes you and what you do. People might not remember you, but your card might be enough to get them to phone you. Print on the back of cards, and do something so your business cards stand out from the crowd.
Don’t sell to the room
There’s nothing worse than a pushy sales person trying to sell you something at a networking event. Use the opportunity to sound out potential leads, not convert them.
If they’re interested, arrange a further meeting. If they’re not interested, don’t blow the contact – this person has a network of people you may never meet. They could become your best referrer.
Do it often
Like any marketing, networking builds momentum over time. If someone sees you at two or three different events, they are much more likely to remember you and pass your details onto someone who needs your service.
You will probably not generate business from your first networking event, so don’t wait until you desperately need the work before you get out there.
Drop an email to the four or five people you meet at events. Don’t blanket email everyone who was there – they won’t appreciate it!
More on how to network successfully
For more tips and tricks on networking successfully, try these guides;
- How to get more out of networking events than passable plonk and canapes
- 5 networking secrets used by professionals
- The “Magic 10” Tips on networking – how the experts build great networks
- The best way to make business networking work for you
You can also network and connect with other individuals and potential customers through social media. These guides will help you get the most out of the opportunities social media offer
- 10 Top tips for small businesses starting out with social media
- 5 ways to maximise your business with social media
- How to get started with Twitter
- Tweets that get you followed and your business noticed – How to build a loyal following, 140 characters at a time
- How to use Facebook to grow your small business
- Marketing your small business through YouTube – The 4 essential steps to success