Networking Events: 5 Tips to Network More Effectively
Study after study reports that between 60-80% of business comes through people we know. And one of the ways we can get to know more people is through attending networking events.
The key, of course, is doing this effectively. Not just breezing through a cocktail hour, grabbing a few cheddar cubes and sneaking out the back door. Here’s what the experts (and Questers) recommend:
- Arrive early: You hear this often, and you’re hearing it again. If you are one of the first to arrive, you can avoid that deer-in-the-headlights moment when you walk into a sea of people who are locked into do-not-disturb conversations. Getting to networking events early gives you court advantage. You can meet the organizers and as people wander in. And, you’re almost guaranteed a personal introduction.
- Watch the booze: A glass of wine, cocktail or beer should last you the entire evening. Too many will raise your temperature (think sweaty palms and forehead) and cloud your listening and verbal skills.
- Make eye contact: As difficult as that is for many, eye contact tells others that you are open to connecting. Eye contact and a smile will invite others into your space. And vice versa. In a Virgin Atlantic poll of executives, 74% said they were greatly influenced by eye contact and a hand shake. Neither will ever go out of style.
- Ask, then shut up and listen: Have you ever met someone who asks you a question, then jumps into their 30-second commercial; all the while their eyes darting back and forth behind you to see if there is someone “better” to chat with? How off putting is that? Active listening takes concentration and time. Don’t force it. Keep your focus (and your eyes) on that person.
- Make it personal: Effective networking makes business “friends”. If you adjust your objective from making as many connections as possible to making friends, your approach and attitude will change. You will be more relaxed, more interesting, more engaging and, yes, more friendly. Bonus point: people will be more inclined to remember you.
Most importantly, follow up!
How many times have you said “Let’s keep in touch” or “I’ll send you some information” only to drop the ball as soon as you get back into your office or coworking space. Other pressing demands take over and before you know it, three weeks have passed. Then it seems cheesy to go back and say “Oops, time got away from me” or some equally lame excuse.
Make it a point to follow up with every person you meet at networking events within 24 hours. Then, put them on your own personal drip campaign. Reach out to them every 2-3 months. Be consistent. Do this enough times and you will have developed a healthy pipeline of friendly connections.
Remember, that’s where 60-80% of your business will come from!