Networking Etiquette and Tips
Networking is an invaluable activity for any business person and can be highly enjoyable. However, others find that it fills them with a dark sense of dread and avoid giving it a go. The following is some advice and tips to get you started and to help you to make sure you are getting the most from your networking activities.
The first thing you need to do is find out about the networking events in your area. So, have a good look at what is on, when and the types of events available. It is worth trying a few different clubs/organisations/event types as different things will suit different people and business types.
Networking events take place at different times of the day i.e. early breakfast events, daytime events or evenings. There are specialist groups for specific industries as well as general organisations such as ISSBA or the Chamber of Commerce which have many different types of businesses as members. There are also women only events and even events designed for parents working from home which provide entertainment for young children whilst you network so decide on the ones that will suit you best.
Your First Event
The first one will always be the most daunting as you won’t know what to expect however, it needn’t be a scary experience! Tell the event organiser that it is your first time and many will be happy to help you settle in and introduce you to some people to get you started.
Prepare beforehand by making sure you can describe your business in a couple of short sentences (keep it succinct and to the point). Make sure you take plenty of business cards along with you.
When you arrive, take a moment to get your bearings. Ask the organiser or the person on the door what the format is if you don’t already know. It is always easier to get to an event a bit early so you can settle in before too many people arrive – it is much harder to walk into a crowded room where everyone is already in deep conversation.
Then, all that is left is to smile, be friendly and make some new contacts. Remember that everyone is there for the same reason so people will always be happy to chat. One of the most important things though is to listen to what other people are saying and show an interest in their business, don’t just sell. Talk to as many people as you can but don’t be rude or walk away if someone isn’t interesting you.
After The Event
This is where many people go wrong with networking. It is not just an exercise to collect as many business cards as possible so make sure you follow up any contacts you made. Sometimes just an email to someone you chatted to is enough saying ‘nice to meet you’ etc but if you spoke about meeting up with someone after the event, make sure you contact them to get the appointment in the diary as it is easy to get involved in your day to day work and forget.
Do’s and Don’ts
- DO try lots of different events – you will meet more people this way and will find some events suit your business better than others.
- DO listen to people and show an interest in their business.
- DO make referrals when appropriate.
- DON’T just sell – remember that networking is a two way thing.
- DON’T forget to follow up after the event.
- DON’T forget to take your business cards with you!
Always remember that networking is not just about selling, it is about building a network of contacts. It may be that someone that you chat to is looking for a particular service and you can recommend one of your suppliers for example – the more business you refer to other people, the more likely they are to remember you if they hear of a need for your services.
Networking can be very useful and a lot of fun. To quote an old cliché ‘people buy from people’ so get your face out there, get to know other local business people and enjoy!