Forum Insight: 10 ways to succeed at a Networking Event
Walking into a meeting room full of people you don’t know can be a scary experience. But there are proven ways to conquer this fear and make ‘networking’ enjoyable, useful and a great way to do business. Paul Rowney is here to present 10 of the best ways to nuke those networking nerves!
- Plan ahead: Get the attendees list in advance of the event and highlight who you want to meet. On arrival contact the organiser and say who you are trying to connect with and if they have the chance could they introduce you when they arrive? Occasionally go to Registration and enquire if one of your ‘targeted’ visitors has arrived, they may be able to point him out to you.
- Get there early. If you are one of the first to arrive, it is much easier to start up a conversation with only a few people in the room.
- Most people arriving will be in the same position as you-not knowing anyone else there, so prepare a few easily answered, conversation opening questions: “Whose presentation are you looking forward to hearing today?”….”What brought you to this event”.
- Joining a group. Approaching a group of delegates already in full conversation with each other is daunting. So be bold, and simply ask “May I join the conversation, I’ve just arrived and I’m keen to learn what’s going on”.
- Creating a conversation. Ask questions. Be a good listener, don’t dominate the conversation with your own stories and business ideas.
- Be helpful: share your knowledge of the industry, your contacts, sources of information. If people perceive you as an expert or knowledgeable, then they will want to keep in contact.
- Use you business card as a tactical weapon. I have a friend who renovates old wooden floors, so his business card is made of a thin piece of wood-a guaranteed conversation starter. Be imaginative with your business card design-and also your job title. Anything that says ‘sales’ or ‘business development’ could cause people to fear a sales pitch is on the way. So try and think of a job title that might encourage, not discourage a conversation.
- If you receive a business card, make notes on the back to remind you of the conversation and the person.
- Following up: If you have had a really constructive conversation, and you have agreed to ‘follow up after the event’, then agree on how and when you’ll do it Email? Phone? Text? Linkedin? And do it promptly.
- Don’ts at networking events: Sales pitches: even if asked “what does your company do”, keep your answer to a very brief, light weight explanation: “we help people solve their logistics IT problems”. Don’t ‘work the room’ rushing from group to group like your serving canapes is not the way to start business relationships. It’s better to have had four good conversations, than a dozen meaningless ‘chats’.