Savvy networkers always have their networking tools with them at all times. The Networking tool kit includes: Your elevator pitch, an ample supply of well branded business cards with all your relevant details, any pertinent collateral material (flyers, brochures, etc), your marketing message for the event – three bullet points you want people you meet to remember – and a confident and enthusiastic demeanour.
2. Set Your Goals
Successful networkers always have an idea of what the goal is for each event they attend. Know, before going in, what the outcome is that you want for yourself at each event. Do you want to meet 3 people and focus on getting to know them really well? Are you looking for an introduction to a certain type of client? Are you looking for information or connections that will get you that information? When you have a plan, it is easier to stay focused and achieve your expected outcome. Be generous with your own knowledge and connections.
3. Arrive Early
Resist the urge to arrive late. It’s almost counter-intuitive, but showing up early at a networking event is a much better strategy. As an early attendee, you’ll notice that it’s calmer and quieter and people won’t have settled into groups. It’s easier to find other people who don’t have conversation partners yet. Many people dread walking into a room and introducing themselves to a bunch of strangers, you will not be alone in this. If you’re early, you can relax and focus on learning about the other people in the room. You will be judged by others, like it or not, based on their first impression of you, so be enthusiastic, engage in conversations, dress well, smile and be confident.
4. Ask Easy Questions & Be Genuine
Don’t wait around the edges of the room, waiting for someone to approach you. To get the conversation started, simply walk up to a person or a group, and say, “May I join you” or “What brings you to this event?” Don’t forget to listen actively to their replies and engage fully in the conversation. Everyone knows when someone is “schmoozing”. Be genuine in your interactions with others at an event. It comes back to building trust, to building “Brand YOU”. When you are interested in learning about someone and their business you will leave a lasting impression as someone who genuinely cares. People choose to work with people they like and have an affinity with. Take care with other people.
5. Listen With Focus
When someone is speaking with you, give that person your entire focus. LISTEN ACTIVELY. Really hear what the person is saying, ask questions, engage. The greatest gift that you can give to another person is to truly hear what that person is saying. How rarely do we hear “She made me feel like the only person in the room”? Take a business card and if possible make a note about the person or conversation that will be valuable to them in your follow up.
6. Be a Giver and a Connector
Networking about is about connecting with people and getting to know them without the need for immediate gain. Be a known as a connector and you will be held in high esteem. Networking is about generosity. Quite simply, give and you shall receive. When you are generous, people will notice and respect you. And, people generally do business with people that they respect, trust, and like. Act like a host at every event you attend by connecting people. Always invite people who are standing by themselves into your group – they will really appreciate it. If you connect with someone and do something for them, your generosity will be repaid a hundred fold, often when you least expect it.
7. Share Your Passion
Win people over with your enthusiasm for your product or service. Leave a lasting impression by telling a story about why you were inspired to create your company. Talking about what you enjoy is often contagious, too. When you get other people to share their passion, it creates a memorable two-way conversation.
8. Don’t Hijack the Conversation
Some people who dislike networking may overcompensate by commandeering the discussion. Don’t forget: The most successful networkers (think of those you’ve met) are good at making other people feel special. Look people in the eye, repeat their name, listen to what they have to say, and suggest topics that are easy to discuss. Be a conversationalist, not a talker.
9. Don’t Sell – Educate.
The Savvy Networker knows that the immediate sale of a product is not the goal in networking. No one likes a direct hard sell. Networking is about building relationships with people who will be happy to tell others about who you are and what you do. Keep your exchange fun, light and informal. The idea is to get the conversation started. People are more apt to do business with those whose company they enjoy. At every opportunity, teach others about who you are, as a person, and what it is that you do. Always present a clear emphasis on the type of client that you are looking for. In doing this, you will be building a salesforce that can reach far wider than you can on your own.
10. Follow Up
After the event, send a short note to each person that you had direct contact with – not just an email – getting your brand across their desk. If there is a referral that you can supply, include that in the follow up note and mention something you discussed when you met or a blog entry or tweet of theirs you have read since. A great way to follow up with them online is not only to follow them on Twitter, but also to make a brief post about your conversation with them. Promoting other people is a great way to create value for them and build the relationship. Do not automatically send a LinkedIn or Facebook request. So often people immediately send social networking link requests to people they just met. However, different people have different policies about whom they link with. If they believe in only connecting with those whom they have established relationships, you make it awkward if you send them a link too early (which they then ignore). Best is to ask people if they would welcome such a link at this time. Be respectful of the fact that they might use social networking differently than you do.
Following up is, sadly, the most neglected part of networking. Since so many people fail to follow up, you can really stand out by just doing this simple act of reaching out to remind someone of who you are and what you do … and that you are interested in exploring a relationship.
Attending a conference with other participants from around the country such as the upcoming National Women’s Day conference or this week’s International Web Summit in Dublin opens up a world of opportunities for growth, learning, and fellowship. Why not take a little time to plan ahead so that you can maximize your results from attending.
1. Set Goals Before You Go
Before you leave for the conference, write down some goals that you want to accomplish during the conference. Be specific but holistic – not “I want 50 new business cards”! These goals could include items about specific skills you want to hone, questions you want to have answered, people you want to contact, areas for which you want to have referral contacts, etc. Set three to five goals for each day of the conference (some goals may stay in place each day) do a mind check on them throughout the day and then hold yourself accountable for them at the end of each day.
2. Be Prepared
It always astonishes me how often I meet people at conferences who can’t succinctly tell me what they do and why I should work with them or recommend them to my clients. Get your Elevator Pitch polished and ready. Be prepared to chat about your work – have three bullet points you always get across. Have your business cards to hand (not buried in your bag across the room), with strong branding and all your relevant details clearly printed. Ensure your website is up to date with your latest announcements or offers and that the branding on your site is the same as the branding on your cards. Bring samples if relevant, it’s always easier to touch or taste than to understand a waffling description. These are the most basic marketing must haves and it’s amazing how many people you meet without them.
3. Dress to Impress but Efficiently
The way you dress and your overall look tells me a lot about who you are, what area you work in and the way you do business. It may be unfair but it’s true. You need to always look professional but with your own style and flair. Plan your look for a conference, keeping in mind the people you will want to talk to and the message you want to leave with them. Hotels and conference centers are notorious for having great variations in temperature, so dress in layers that can be removed and added on. You will probably be spending more time on your feet and doing more walking than usual, maybe reconsider those killer heels unless you wear them daily. Be comfortable, you’ll exude more confidence.
4. Be Attractive
Everyone goes to a conference to learn and have fun, but no one enjoys being around people who are boorish, self-centered, or needy. Don’t be a seller or a clinger, be a conversation maker. Show enthusiasm for what you do, ask questions, introduce people, draw people into your circle and use humour to make people feel welcome and interesting. Be yourself. Have a friendly exit strategy ready it’s easy to get stuck with a group who are not helping achieve your conference goals.
5. Network, Network, Network
A conference is a priceless opportunity to make yourself and your brand known and to get to know others. You’ve already set some goals that will get you started. Now be alert to other opportunities. Always remember the person you’re chatting with may never buy from you but it’s who they know that counts. Be sure they understand what you do and the type of client you’re looking for – make it easy for them to refer you. Be a good and active listener and engage in the conversation if you want others to remember you. Get a card from everyone you meet and make a note on it as an aide memoire. Be active networking online throughout the conference, using hash tags give a live feed on the key learning points for each speaker on Twitter, give relevant updates through LinkedIn and on your company facebook pages. Comment on other posters updates, start conversations and meet up face to face.
6. Learn From Every Experience
You will learn a huge amount from attending a conference. There will be wonderful speakers with knowledge and experience to share. Take just one or two points from each session – Imagine you have to sum it up in a single tweet (Better still, send that Tweet!). You will learn a great deal as you network with colleagues. And there will be some mistakes you make that will also teach you important lessons. Learn from every single experience that you have. Keep a note of your key learning points both positive and negative.
7. Lighten Your Load
Conferences are great places to pick up “Stuff”. You’ll collect business cards, brochures, handouts, t-shirts, bags, books, tapes and random samples. Before you know it you will have more things to haul home then you can imagine. Working in Marketing I am a divil for this, I collect designs I like, marketing ideas I think might benefit clients, web shots etc. Needless to say most I never look at again. Lighten your load throughout the conference by trawling through the collateral you collect, make notes on it on the conversations you had with the provider and be ruthless in what you jettison. If you are abroad, simply post it home… It’s much easier to mail a few pounds of material to yourself than it is to haul it back on a plane. Make a note of everyone you met regardless of their value to your business, keep the cards with you. Make notes of what you promised and to whom to make follow up fast and easy. Do this at the end of each conference day.
8. Back at the Office
When you return to the office after the conference, be sure to promptly do whatever you have promised to do. Make contact with everyone you had conversations with, even just to say it was good to meet them, or to thank them for their advice. Don’t just send an email – write a letter – you are bringing your brand and message across their desk, again making it easy for them to refer you. Connect with these people on LinkedIn and Twitter using a personal message and if they accept your invitation you have access to their online networks, leveraging your relationship as a referral. Contact attendees you met based near you and arrange to meet up face to face to discover more about each other’s business. The more they understand what you do and the type of client you are looking for the more confidence they will have to refer business your way. Remember 14% of EU businesses say they will buy from an advert, 78% say they will buy from a referral. Go through the notes you made and look at where the learning can be applied – act on it!
Redstorm CEO, Carol O'Kelly, is a very hugely respected, award winning, keynote speaker in the areas of Personal Branding, Strategy, Communications, Executive Presence and LinkedIn. She has a huge passion for what she does and for the clients she works with. From C-Suite Personal Branding work to Communications Strategy projects and her Advisory roles, she brings all her energy, enthusiasm and focus to her work.