According to a survey from Virgin, 85% of people prefer face-to-face interactions as it builds stronger, more meaningful business relationships. After all, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Yes, walking into a roomful of strangers can seem daunting, but fear not, here are some top tips on making the most of a business networking event…
Business networking events are supposed to be relaxed and informal occasions, but it does pay to attend with a goal in mind. Ask yourself, why am I going? What do I want to get out of it? If it’s to speak to a particular person, think about how you are going to approach them. If it’s to broaden your business network, think about how you are going to present your business to people. The more prepared you are, the more fruitful the event will be.
There’s a misconception that networking is about selling yourself, but come across overly pushy or like a keen bean and people will see through you. To be an effective networker, you just need to be yourself. Well, by that, we mean the best possible version of yourself. You know, the one who likes to chat and make an effort in company. If you’re inauthentic, people won’t trust you or want to do business with you. Relax, chat openly and in a friendly manner, and people will respond.
Evening networking events often involve free fizz and canapes, and while having one or two glasses is fine to settle the nerves, it’s not the time or the place to start knocking back the booze. Also, take note: millennial millionaires are health nuts; more likely to close a deal over a chai latte than a bottle of Bollinger. Keep things professional and avoid the bar. Instead, move around the room chatting to people who are on your radar.
We’ve all been there. You get chatting to someone who at first is very interesting, but then they corner you, and you just can’t leave without coming across as rude. A confident person would say something like: “Well, it’s been great talking to you. I particularly enjoyed hearing about X. I know you’ll be wanting to chat with other people too so I won’t take up any more of your time,” and casually walk off. But, if you can’t pluck up the courage to do that, here’s a top tip: toilet break.
More often than not, there will be someone at an event that you really want to speak to. Someone who you admire and want to connect with professionally. Rather than go over and gush enthusiastically about how great you think they are, think about what it is about that person that chimes with you and tie it into your work or business philosophy. Introduce yourself not as a fan, but as an equal, and give them the opportunity to admire your confidence and business acumen.
No, we don’t mean by telling crude jokes
or dominating the conversation, but by treating everyone you meet with respect. Not every person will be a business lead, but take the time to converse with everyone who approaches you. Don’t look over their shoulder for someone better to talk to.
Be attentive and keep check of your body language. Also, if you’re single, don’t view a networking event as an opportunity to flirt. Keep it professional, yet friendly, at all times.
Business networking is not just about you. Make an effort to introduce other people to each other. If you meet someone at an event who might potentially be able to help another friend or colleague with their business, take the time to connect them. Not only is this just a pretty decent thing to do, they will be grateful for the introduction and more likely to return the favour when they meet someone who could help you.
You’ve taken the leap and done some schmoozing, so afterwards capitalise on it. There’s little point going to networking events if you don’t follow up on your leads afterwards. Within 72 hours after the event, empty your wallet or purse of business cards (yes, even in this digital age people like to pass around the print) and contact the people you’ve met who could potentially add value to your business.