Working a room is one of the greatest skills that any entrepreneur or business person can learn. In fact, if done properly, it is truly more of an art form than a skill! And a bit of advance planning can turn any nice person into a networking rock star…
Pick the Right Events –
First – know what you want to accomplish: If you want to scope out the competition, choose industry events. Looking for new clients? Then you need to attend events that will attract them. Check for local events in your local newspaper, Chamber of Commerce, Tourism & Convention Bureau, as well as Facebook groups, sites like meetup.com or Linkedin. And of course, you can always check out Google or Bing.
Get That ‘Elevator Pitch’ Ready! –
When someone asks what you do 0 and hopefully they will since that is why you are there….you want it to be natural but memorable and BRIEF! Spend some quality time coming up with a catchy but succinct 30-second description of your business, and a few possible variations of it, so you don’t sound like a robot by the end of the evening.
Know Your Audience –
You can do this a little before you show up by looking at the membership directory of some types of groups, but you can also do it on the fly as you’re at the event. Take time to listen to the audience during socializing so that you can get to know them. If it’s a longer networking event, use the first day to listen, then the second day to get to know people more and the third day to let them know you.
Know the Layout of the Place –
If the event is at a hotel and offers drinks or separate socializing areas, check out the various spots people congregate. Know where the bathroom and other key places are so that if anyone asks you can tell them. But also, so that you can move through the room without being lost.
Learn Names and Faces –
Some people are very good at remembering names and faces, others aren’t. Sometimes it’s not your fault if you cannot remember faces very well, but you can train yourself to do better. Try to connect their face and name to their business in your mind with word games. Repeat their name when you meet them, and try to introduce them to at least one other person which will help you remember more.
Actually Work the Room –
It’s easy to find a corner and just stay there for the whole event. Don’t. That is not why you are doing this. Set goals: how many new people you want to meet, the number of business cards you want to collect, and once you really get comfortable, try setting a goal of one ‘coffee date’ per event. It’s always tempting to just chat with the people you already know, but the point of networking is to expand your reach by meeting new people.
Ask Questions and LISTEN –
Yes, you are there to tell people about you and your business, but you will be amazed at the results you will get if you ask questions and listen more than you talk. People who get to talk with you will remember you more than if you did all the talking.
Look Approachable –
Body language is so important! Stand casually, arms uncrossed, and a warm but easy expression. Forced smiles are as off-putting as crossed arms and frowns. It may take a few events but you will eventually get there. Shake hands with confidence, but don’t break any fingers. Try to avoid juggling both a beverage and a food plate at the same time – unless you have 3 arms, this makes shaking hands pretty much impossible. And keep alcoholic beverages to a minimum – avoids any embarrassing situations.
Follow Up –
After the event you want to follow up with anyone you spoke to for a few minutes if you have their information. Don’t immediately try to sell them something, but do follow up with any info that you promised them or make connections you know would be great for them. Do something nice that goes a little out of your way for the people that you really want to make an impression on.
Live networking events are one of the best ways to establish yourself locally. Yes, it does often take some coordinating to work into your schedule, and since many events are in the evening, it can take away from your personal time. But, the value is proven and you will ultimately be rewarded for your efforts.
On the face of it, you may not think the following business owners have much in common with each other based on what they do but as fellow entrepreneurs, they have more in common than you may think.
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