9 Tips for Mastering Networking

Networking events can be difficult for some, especially those of us who are more introverted. Every successful entrepreneur knows just how important it is to connect with others in their communities, thought, whether personal or business. Growing your professional network takes work, time and skill. Luckily, it’s an art that most anyone can learn. Here are nine tips that are sure to help you master networking.

  1. Make a few connections before you go. I always try to do this before a networking event. Using either Twitter or a Facebook group (if the event has one), I make connections with other attendees. There’s something about knowing a few friendly faces that just puts my mind at ease. Networking can be stressful, especially for the painfully shy. Making connections will make it less like a networking event and more like a gathering of friends.
  2. Dress fairly casual. Networking events are not the place to wear your jeans and a T-shirt. Nor are they the place to get all dolled up. Dress casually, but professionally, so that you make those around you feel comfortable.
  3. Tackle the event alone. As much as it’s easier to tag along with your friends, your friends already know who you are and what you do. Networking is about expanding your growing network. This is your opportunity to talk to people you have never met before, and a chance to connect with those you want to get to know better.
  4. Ask open-ended questions. Asking yes or no questions will get you short, predictable answers. Asking open-ended questions will give the person you’re talking to an opportunity to share who they are and how they feel about something. Remember, you’re not just there to introduce yourself to others. You’re there to meet new people and make new connections. Networking should be a two-way street, with both parties giving and taking.
  5. Wear a nametag. This might seem self-explanatory, but many people choose not to wear one. If you are bad at introducing yourself, you could get creative and put a question on your nametag to get the conversation going. Whatever you do, don’t shy away from the nametag. Sometimes it’s the only thing that connects you to your potential clients.
  6. Let people know what you can do for them. When people ask you what you do, don’t just tell them your job title. Come up with a 10-second elevator speech that includes a short message about what you can do for them. Doing so will help your new connection decide how they or others can work with you.
  7. Don’t forget your business cards – and a pen. Although it’s not recommended that you drop your business card everywhere (some people do do this), you should always have a good supply on hand. Bring a pen for writing down details, if necessary. Say you just met Jane and she said something interesting about her business, but it’s not on her card. You can write the note on the back of the card to remind yourself later.
  8. Talk, but don’t forget to listen. A huge part of networking is not only being able to share information about who you are and what you do, but also learning about who others are and what they do. Remember to share the airtime equally.
  9. Follow up on email. After a day of networking, sending a “nice to meet you” email is always a thoughtful touch. Know that when someone gives you their business card, though, it is not an invitation to send them spam. Always ask permission to add someone to your mailing list. There’s no quicker way to offend than to fill a potential client’s inbox up with unsolicited mail.
       

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