Businesses flourish when they are nurtured and fed with relationships. After all, business is all about who you know, who buys from you, and who you call when you need assistance. That is why you need connections. Business networking is where you get the seeds required to grow your business and see it expand throughout the years. To help you navigate your next business networking event and gain those useful connections, we have put together a list of tips and tricks.
1. Dress For Success
Just because your networking meeting is online over Zoom, it doesn’t mean you can get away with wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants. You need to dress appropriately. The dress code will often be business casual, but you should always double-check with the event manager. For example, some luncheons might have a very lenient dress code, while professional seminars could require a suit.
2. Come With a Goal
Before you walk through the doors of the networking event, you should come up with a goal or two for the meeting. Winging it might work for some people, but you will have much more success if you have a topic of discussion in mind.
Common goals for business networking include:
- Finding a mentor or apprentice
- Building relationships
- Finding a partnership
- Talking about angel investors or venture capitalists
- Marketing your new business and building brand awareness
- Discuss marketing strategies you would like to try
These are just a few examples. You can choose other strategies, depending on where you are with your business or the kind of relationship you are searching for. After setting the goal, it will influence the way you move about the meeting and how you speak with others.
3. Avoid Gravitating Towards People You Already Know
You may be nervous about meeting tens or hundreds of new people, especially if you are introverted. Rather than gravitating towards people you are already acquainted with, seek out the host of the event then look for others who are standing alone to introduce yourself. When you sit down, find a spot next to people you don’t know yet. Doing so keeps your mind on the goal and will compel you to form new relationships.
4. Be Aware of Body Language
Although humans say what’s on their mind with words, the body has a language of its own—and it says a lot. Posture, eye contact, and expressions can reveal much about what a person is thinking or feeling. Understanding your nervous ticks and maintaining awareness of your face and posture will help you come across as much more confident and inviting. When speaking with others, give them plenty of eye contact, tilt your head in their direction, smile, and do not slouch. Make sure your body isn’t conflicting with what you say.
Keep in mind that there will be a mix of people at these events. Extroverts and introverts are going to react to encounters differently. You may have to adjust how to engage with different people to make them feel comfortable.
5. Give Business Cards—Thoughtfully
For any event—in-person or virtual—you will want to have business cards. And make sure those business cards look good. Most people can imagine a business card that caught their attention somehow. Maybe it was the unique design or the weight of the paper or the presentation. Those standout business cards make you more memorable, and you want that. Don’t hand out boring business cards.
If you are attending a virtual event, you can share a link to a downloadable version of the card or offer to send your card along in an email or by mail.
One thing to keep in mind for international events is business card culture. If you are passing out business cards to people who are not from North America, particularly Asian cultures, you will want to be far more polite. Japanese businesspeople, for instance, will treat the exchange of business cards as something incredibly significant.
6. Active Listening
Business networking is also a chance to work on your soft skills. Don’t approach people and launch into a business pitch straightaway. Instead, ask thoughtful questions. Listen to the answers. Not only will you gain valuable insight on the personality of the people you are speaking to, but you can also learn more about their brand and business goals.
This will also make others more comfortable around you, and they may be more willing to provide you with information.
Another way to employ active listening is to say the other person’s name a couple of times. Make them feel heard and seen. Furthermore, give them your full attention. Try not to get distracted, even if there is something else going on around you. Look for the same cues in other people.
7. Take Notes
Sometimes there are networking events that are overflowing with people, and you may shake so many hands and give so many introductions that you forget who is who. This is when you should be taking notes. After every encounter—never during—jot down a quick memo. Here are some things to include:
- The individual’s name, first and last
- Their business or field or work
- Whether they are employed, a business owner, or independent contractor
- Their business goals
- Anything else you found noteworthy
If they gave you a business card, you should mark that down as well.
8. Be Sure to Follow Up and Meet Again
After you introduce yourself to someone and exchange information, be sure to follow up with them within 48 hours after the event. Otherwise, they may forget about you. Thank them for the conversation and extend an invitation to meet again or ask if they plan to attend the next networking event. From there, work to develop the relationship.
When you attend a business networking event, you should always focus on making a great first impression. Let others know that you are willing to help, that you can offer them something of value. And keep this in mind: after having attended the event, the others should hope to have you return and discuss business with them again. In doing so, you will have made acquaintances that will soon turn into amazing relationships and friendships.
Kickstart your business networking today and join other local business owners at the next SJBA meeting! We would love to meet you. Check out the schedule or drop us a line