Many professionals often dread networking events. However, making connections and having a successful business can sometimes be one in the same. Here’s the thing, to truly perfect the art of networking and making connections, you have to practice everyday. Whether that’s talking to coworkers for a few minutes or working on your elevator pitch, be sure to find the best way to market your qualities. The key to a great business connection is sharing what you do and the goals of your company and listening to what your connection does. From there, you can figure out how both your similarities can benefit each party. Try to attend as many networking events to get a ton of practice.
The following seven tips can help substantially when trying to make business connections at these events.
1. Be On Time
Ok, we get it. You’re nervous and you have no idea how this is going to go. So, arriving late makes all the sense in the world. That is, until you get there and realize that everyone’s huddled in a group and you’re left on the sidelines with no one to talk to. Trust us, arriving early is definitely the way to go. Getting there when all is still calm allows you to take a breath and go over last minute details in your head.
A better strategy may be to set a time limit on how long you want to stay at the event. Allot yourself a chunk of time that you’re comfortable with. This reduces the pressure you put on yourself. It may also motivate you to talk to more people because you don’t have all the time in the world. Just remember to put your best foot forward as you don’t know who you’ll meet that can help with your career advancement.
2. Ask Easy Yet Open-Ended Questions
This step is what many people have a hard time doing. However, it can be really easy if you do your homework beforehand. If you have access to the guest list, google some of the attendees. A great place to get some professional background information on someone is LinkedIn. From there you can draft questions about their different business ventures. If you’re nervous, try using conversation starters like “May I join you” or “What brings you to this event?”
Talking about food and travel is also a good tactic, advises etiquette expert, Jacqueline Whitmore. In an interview with Inc., Whitmore reveals that the commonality that we have as humans is our love for food and our interest in travel. Whether you started the conversation or not, remember to listen intently. Not only is this a great way to get to know someone, it also helps in generating follow up questions to keep the conversation going.
3. No Sales Pitch, Please
The last thing you want to do is go in there and sound like a sleazy sales guy trying to sell a pre-owned car. Relax, people are more likely to do business with you if they can see you as fun and informal. Keep the conversation light and when someone asks about your business, give a short summary of what your business is all about. Be sure to include recent accomplishments like new clients or a job you just completed. Of course, you still want to sell your business, but the key is to find an easy transition into your current conversation.
4. Talk About Your Passion
The enthusiasm that beams from you when you talk about something you enjoy is exactly what you need to leave a lasting impression. Sharing your personal journey of how your company came about and why it was important for you to start it in the first place are great talking points. Remember, your drive and passion are what makes you memorable at a networking event.
5. Keep Smiling
This and talking about your passion goes hand in hand. Have you ever witnessed someone talk about the love of their life? The smile and emotion they show just from sharing a memory of them? That’s what happens when you talk about your business and what you hope to achieve as an entrepreneur. Not only is smiling infectious, but it also does a great job of hiding just how nervous you are. As a bonus, you come off as warm and inviting. The most important take away is that you tuck all the negative thoughts away and just keep smiling.
6. Learn to Listen
Here’s the secret to being a good listener; you form connections from listening and you learn a whole lot about others. Becoming a really good listener takes practice, however. You must learn to make eye contact, remember the person’s name and suggest topics that relate to what someone else just discussed. You have a better chance of someone reaching out to you after the event if they had a meaningful conversation, rather than one that was simply filled with pleasantries.
7. Remember to Follow Up
If you feel you made a meaningful connection with someone, don’t forget to ask for their contact information before the event ends. Typically, it is a good idea to follow up with a contact 48 hours after the event. Find out their preferred method of communication, as everyone is different. You may come across people who will only supply you with their email, where others may also supply social media information, like LinkedIn. Just be sure to reference something you both talked about within the context of your message, so that they know exactly who you are. To create lasting business connections, you must stay in constant contact.
Here’s the thing, to truly perfect the art of networking and making connections, you have to practice every day. These seven steps can help you solidify those connections.
What are some tips that have helped you make meaningful business connections? Let us know in the comments below.
This article was written by Dorcy Castillo.