If you’ve been in business for a minute or more, you’ve probably heard that networking is one of the keys to success. Networking is one of the most effective – and low cost – methods for developing business opportunities and contacts. The idea is simple, attend an event with other businesses, such as an after-hours or progressive luncheon. What many people struggle with, especially if they are a bit introverted, is knowing what to say or with whom they should speak. To help with this, we’ve put together our top three tips to make your next networking even a complete success.
1. Remember everyone is there to meet new people.
Look for the people you don’t know and introduce yourself. Ask questions and really listen to the answer, not as a way to react, but as a way to learn. Make a positive impact and stand out from the crowd by speaking with people you don’t know. Without a doubt, when you’ve attended enough events, you’ll come across the same people routinely – say hello and look for the new faces, too.
2. Build relationships, not just contact lists.
Be an advocate and ally for others. Once people see that you back up your words with actions on their behalf, they will do the same for you. By prioritizing helping and giving to others, you will move to the forefront of their minds when you need help. Think of this as business Karma. Also, people who give are perceived as strong, a quality that others gravitate towards, which can establish you as a leader.
3. Sit where you know nobody else at the table.
Use these occasions as opportunities to broaden your knowledge base. Chances are good that you’ll come across somebody who has similar interests to you or that you can help with a solution they are looking for. Ask open-ended questions that require a real response instead of a yes or no answer. This helps to jumpstart conversations and put people at ease.
Ultimately, enjoy yourself – and carry plenty of cards. If you are new to business and are looking for networking opportunities, check out the local chambers of commerce and other business associations. They often have schedules full of events at various times of the day or evening. Sign up for one that interests you and put these tips to work!