Networking events: Love 'em or hate 'em, they're a necessary part of life as a business professional if you want to grow your sphere of influence and your affiliate network. Shows like ILCT and LAB Live let you meet like-minded individuals and make important business connections; they may even net you a much-needed job or affiliate.
Despite the potential benefits of networking, few of us plan ahead and think about how to make the most of the opportunity. But there are at least 19 strategies that successful networkers can use to connect and impress at business events.
If there are individuals you're hoping to meet (and impress) at your next event, do some pre-meeting research online. Scope out these individuals' LinkedIn profiles to learn the basics about them and look for common connections.
Prior to arriving at the event, take a few minutes to research the layout of the hotel and event space. You’ll figure out where you are going and identify the places attendees will be meeting during and after the event hours.
People tend to gravitate toward those with whom they share similarities. This is known as the similarity attraction effect. When meeting others with shared traits or experiences, be sure to point out the similarities you have to increase perceived social compatibility.
Too often I encounter people who are interested only in talking about themselves. Instead of wasting golden opportunities by blabbing about yourself, ask thoughtful questions - and actually listen to the answers.
Instead of focusing only on making your own connections, make an effort to connect others. When speaking with someone, think about whether there's someone else at the event who could help (or be helped) by this person, and then make an introduction. In my own work life, all I do is connect. Be a connector yourself. You have to GIVE to GET!
People use networking events for many reasons, including finding a job, meeting potential clients or just socializing. Expert networker Murray Newlands suggests, "Before you arrive at an event, ask yourself what you're hoping to achieve and what you need to do to achieve it."
There's nothing worse than being asked the question, "What do you do?" and suddenly coming up blank. The idea of a traditional elevator pitch is a bit outdated, but the underlying strategy is still a good one: Come up with a few sentences you can use to accurately describe yourself or your business.
Being an effective networker means going into events with a purpose and a plan. It also means being 100 percent committed to connecting authentically with those around you. It's not exactly rocket science, but a little bit of preparation before your next networking event could be what sets you apart from the pack.
Networking events can be awkward. Particularly if you're an introvert, starting conversations may not come naturally. Vow to overcome your natural temptation to blend into the woodwork, and make a point of introducing yourself to at least five people each day.
Instead of focusing on how you feel at the event, focus on making your conversation partner feel good about themselves. You can do this through being a great listener, asking thoughtful questions and giving your undivided attention. After the event, people are more likely to remember those individuals who made them feel good about themselves.
I understand the temptation to weasel your way out of a dead end conversation in order to talk with that big network affiliate manager who just walked into the room. And while there's nothing wrong with subtly steering a conversation to a close, abruptly ending it to speak with someone "better" is a definite networking faux pas.
When in doubt, listen. Ask questions, and then listen to the answers. Ask a person's name, and then actually listen to it and make a mental note to remember it or write your note on the back of their business card. Most people at these events are talkers, so being a thoughtful listener can set you apart from the pack.
Immediately following an event/meeting jot down helpful information you gleaned. These details will quickly fade in the days following an event, so taking physical notes can help.
It's tempting to continue scanning the room while you talk with someone, but this is a great way to make that person feel 2 inches tall. When you're with someone, give him or her your undivided attention, just as you would expect them to do with you.
“If you've promised to send information or connect with someone, a good rule of thumb is to do it within 24 hours after the event," says expert networker Joshua Steimle. "Waiting any longer may unintentionally convey disinterest."
Spending time engaging in meaningful conversations with a few people is often better than floating around the room engaging in short, superficial conversations. Aim to make real connections by asking questions, listening intently and moving beyond small talk, where appropriate. Your success will NOT be determined by the number of business cards you bring home.
Smiling conveys happiness, openness and confidence; not to mention that smiling can actually help you feel happier. Smile liberally to make yourself as approachable as possible.
This is a no-brainer, right? But it's good to have a reminder. Now, be sure you have your headshot, cell, and city you service on your cards so people can remember you.
Don’t waste your money. Everyone throws them away as they don’t have any place to put them and don't want to carry them.
"If I'm fortunate enough to earn your business today, if we were sitting here 12 months from now doing an annual review what would a successful relationship look like in your eyes?"
The prospect will give you every single objection that you will have to overcome because they will talk about the issues they are currently having with their current provider.
Ask this question to everyone you meet and make a genuine connection with instead of asking for their business in your market. Asking this question will set them at ease, show them you are invested in their best interests, and are thinking long-term while providing an avenue for them answer with all of the issues they have with their current affiliate.