Learning the finer points of attending business networking events
Networking is a word that either gets you excited or makes you cringe. Your response probably has a lot to do with your past experience networking, your personality, and your approach to business. We’ve all been to the awkward networking event that’s uncomfortable for everyone. But have you ever been to a great networking event where you made genuine connections with like-minded business owners? The difference isn’t the event itself or even the people at the event, but in how the networking happens.
The best networking happens when genuine connections are made. Networking events aren’t about how many business cards you can collect, but about which individuals you meet who have business relationship potential. It isn’t just about who you meet that can benefit you, but who you meet When it comes to business networking, keep these 5 things in mind to make good connections:
- Be prepared. This should go without saying, but unfortunately preparation isn’t a given. Here’s a quick checklist:
- Start by dressing appropriately. You’re representing your business, and your appearance is the first thing people will notice. Be aware of the formality of the business event, and dress professionally.
- Remember to take business cards.
- Think about what you have to say. You don’t want to come across as a robot, but there are certain questions you can expect; the last thing you want is to seem caught off guard by a question like “what do you do for a living?”
- Be positive. Business networking events are not the time or place to share how much your ex-coworker annoyed you, or how depressed the weather makes you, or how tired and busy you are. First impressions matter! You don’t have to be fake, but you can choose to avoid negative commentary and venting.
- Be you. There’s nothing worse than fake networking personality. Immediately launching into your carefully prepared elevator pitch can cause people to tune you out completely and ruin your chances for developing a real relationship. Instead, stay in the moment and work at creating conversation instead of over sharing information.
- Be interested. Remember: it’s about quality of connection over quantity. If you’re there with an expectation of giving, not getting, this will happen naturally. Attentively listen to what people are saying. Ask open-ended “why” questions to get out of the small-talk cycle. Not only will your conversations be more interesting, but you’re likely to uncover information about your new connection you otherwise wouldn’t have discovered.
- Be present. Practice good manners: don’t check your phone in the middle of a conversation, and don’t let your eyes wander from the person you’re having a conversation with. Unless you’re legitimately waiting for life-altering news, there is no email, text message, or phone call that’s so important it can’t wait 45 minutes. Be careful not to write people off and think of being “stuck” talking to someone. It’s amazing the connections that happen because of someone who knows someone.
The point of a networking event isn’t to make a sale or gain a new customer. The point of a business networking event is to build new relationships and meaningful connections. Seeing each person only for what they can offer you and your business is an easy mindset to succumb to, but it’s a motivation other people can spot from a mile away. Be genuine, and set an atmosphere of valuing the quality of each connection you make.