Even if you’re a natural extrovert, networking can feel awkward and uncomfortable, even after years of doing it. Although it might not feel the best, there are a few simple things you can do to be great at it.
Adopt an attitude of ‘I like you’ — don’t worry if people would like you; shift your focus from yourself to others.
Dress to Impress
Everyone you meet is likely to remember how they felt about you after their first interaction with you, regardless of if they remember the exact event.
Get a Wingman
Sales is VERY similar to dating. Cold introductions can be difficult and awkward. You will have to make connections on your own to start, but once you start getting to know people and going to the same events as them, ask them to introduce you to people (and offer to do the same for them!)
Wear a name tag with your name and business on it. Networking events can be loud and names are easy to mix up (and forget). Seeing your name and business when someone first meets you will help them to remember you, more than getting a business card at the end of the night.
It’s best to wear your name tag on the left side so when you go to shake someone’s hand for the first time it is still visible.
Bring Business Cards
Handing someone a business card at the end of your conversation is a great way to ask for a follow up and ensure you can connect after the event. No matter how much of an impression you make, there’s a very small chance someone will remember your company AND your full name.
Don’t Bring Marketing Material
Business cards are great to connect with people, but marketing material is just a sales gimmick. Emailing them afterwards is a reason for follow up, if they want your material then delaying it a day to email to them won’t ruin your deal.
Genuinely Ask About Others
At networking events, most people are in sales and want to promote their business. Instead of jumping right into what you do or sell, start by asking about the other person (don’t interrogate), find something in common to talk about, be in the moment and pay attention (don’t think about what you will say next)!
Share an equal airtime — offer an interesting tidbit of information about yourself (if they are interested, they will ask for more); don’t forget this is an art of give and take (remember to hand over the baton).
Psychology is a huge part of business. Standing with your arms crossed and looking uninterested will make you seem unapproachable. Keep your stance and expression open and friendly.
If you are having a conversation with a group of people, don’t close your circle off. By standing next to other people, others will feel more comfortable joining your conversation. Overall, be friendly and don’t be clique-y!
Thank the People Putting on the Event
Even if it is a local chamber, events can be a pain to put on. They take a ton of time, planning, and money, and sometimes they don’t even get recognized for their efforts!
You can do this by sending someone at the organization an email the next day (which also is a great way to follow up) or by tweeting at the end of the event, which brings me to…
Tweet at the Event
Live tweeting the event will help get you exposure online and allow you to connect with the hosting organization and other attendees. Plus, it helps you to look active in the community.
If there are “gimmicks” like office volleyball, participate! You might feel a little silly, but this is a great way to connect with people — helps to remove business — and it shows you aren’t stuck up!
A classic cliché that holds truth. Most people can see through a fake and you’re networking with other people, so just try to genuinely connect!
This is a great opportunity to talk about what you do in your free time (outside of work)!
Tips for Finding Events
Check out Your Local Chamber
The point of most chambers is to host events to help people connect! Check out their website and other online resources to find events to attend. Many chambers post information about their member’s events so you can find out about happening that might not be limited to your chamber.
Ask Your Contacts
Talk to your local contacts and partners and see where they go to meet new prospects, there are likely many of networking events or groups you just haven’t heard of.
If you can’t find anything to go to, host your own! You can collaborate with your partners or customers to host one so the cost isn’t as much as a burden, and then hopefully it will inspire other in the area to also start up events!
About Leeward Business Advisors
Leeward Business Advisors is a Wisconsin-based corporation that provides business strategy planning, business improvement implementation, and full IT operational support. They offer world class Cloud Computing services, Cloud brokerage, Managed IT services, and a full US based Support Service Desk (called Quick Answers). Michael Polzin, CEO has 20+ years of enterprise business and technology experience gained while working at Allstate Insurance and Microsoft Corporation. Jason Klein, CTO has 15+ years delivering effective and efficient technology to Midwest companies.