I attend several networking functions a month. And I am struck by the aimless nature of most people on hand. Which got me to thinking about the 5 tips to consider before you arrive. Old school networking is transactional, as in “what can you do for me?” New school networking is all about helping someone else. Building trusted relationships is the key, not collecting 25 business cards.
Tip #1 What’s your plan? Are you there to find a job? Eat the free food? Make new friends? Decide why you are attending. Be clear and have a goal. For example, I want to meet 3 potential new clients for my services.
Tip #2 Who are you targeting to meet? Potential clients? Services you are seeking? Connections in your industry? Define relationships that make sense for you and your business. Does the event you are attending make sense for your field or industry?
Tip #3 How can you help the people you meet? What can you do for them? Collaboration is what matters, helping someone else achieve their agenda. Ask good questions, understand what both of you have in common. Be friendly, be approachable. Sincerity can’t be faked. Make a genuine connection. Make a note on your smart phone for follow up.
Tip #4 What do you do? As in “what’s your story?” Be clear and concise. Practice your story before you show up. Are you looking for a new opportunity? Define it and ask for ask for feedback. Listen carefully to the response. Are you seeking funding for your new product? Describe the feature and benefits of what your product or service can do for someone else, in 30 seconds or less. Crisp, and confident. Describe what connections you are seeking; angel investor, banker, grants? If you can’t describe your story, skip the event and use that time to write one. Practice on 3 people before you deliver it in prime time.
Tip #5 What is your call to action? Have your business cards ready to share. If not a traditional approach, use an APP or QR code to swap contact details on your smart phone. Be clear on your follow up with the people you have met. Within 24 hours, send a follow up note or text acknowledging your meet up. Connect with new contacts on LinkedIn. Follow through on what you have promised to deliver. Initiate e-connections for referrals.
Network like you mean it! Take the time to build a meaningful connection. Make a small contribution and help someone get where they are going.
Be authentic. Have fun and watch your network expand.