(Related: 5 Business Networking ‘Musts’)
Networking is more than just showing up to an event and expecting business to come your way. It would be awesome if it worked that way, but it doesn’t. Business Networking, and establishing good connections, does require work. Lots of work. In fact, the word “work” is right in the word “network”! How about that?
Put work into your network and over time good things will happen. No, great things will happen! Provided, of course, that you attend the right events, say the right things, and meet the right people. A lot to think about I know!
Here are 8 best practices!
1. Attend the right event.
If you’re not attending the right events, almost nothing else matters. How do you know if you’re attending the right events? Funny you ask! Do you have a good connection with many of the attendees.
- Are they fun.
- Are they in a profession that can refer you business.
- Are they in a profession (or in a position) that can hire you.
- Are they in or do they serve your target market.
- Is it cost effective.
- Are there opportunities to exhibit.
- Speak at their events.
- Write for their publications.
- Earn a designation.
- Will the organization that hosts the event promote your business?
Events might be company events, professional associations, chambers, community service groups, or networking organizations. Make sure you’re attending the right events for the right reasons. Location, location, location!
2. Be clear on your message.
- What do you do.
- Who do you help.
- Why do you get hired.
- Who are great referral partners.
- Who are great prospects.
- Why do you do what you do.
- Who is your target market.
- What are your target companies or target professions.
- What story can you share to make you and your work interesting and engaging.
- How can your message be concise, clear, actionable, and fun.
Think conversation rather than monologue. Be clear on what information you’re sharing with people. Ever walk away from a conversation without any idea of what was said or what that person does for work? Don’t let that be you!
3. Get involved.
Getting value from an event is not usually a one-time deal. (Unless the event is a one-time deal.) See what you can do to get involved and contribute to the event and the organization.
Can you volunteer? Help at the registration desk? Become a member?
If you’re not sure how you can support the cause just ask! If you’re a mover and shaker as a member or attendee at an event, you’ll get a lot of visibility and others will think you must be good at what you do professionally. Hopefully you are!
4. Listen closely.
Listen. Truly listen. That means you don’t talk about you. Just listen to those you meet. Really try to understand what the other person is saying. React, reflect, and ask questions as appropriate. Networking is about learning about the people you meet and over time helping them if you can. The best way to learn is to actively listen. Just shut down the voices in your head and pay attention. Set the standard for listening and when it’s your turn to talk, they will listen.