After reading and doing what most books teach about networking for the past several years, I have modified and created my own list of 30 networking tips that I think you will benefit from them especially if you are new and want to get the most of out any networking event.
Before the Event
1. Know the location -It helps to know where the event is going to be held beforehand. It is both frustrating and embarrassing to appear in the wrong place and keep calling the host who is busy talking to his / her guest.
2. Always arrive early – If you can follow this, you will make it as a top networker in no time. I always respect people who turn up not only on time, but well before the event starts. Arriving early is not only for show, you can have a great opportunity by connecting with the host and guest speakers (if any).
3. Bring more name cards -Bringing more name cards can make a difference at times. In a professional business event, it is embarrassing to tell people that you run out of name cards. If the event is expecting 100 people, bring 150 name cards. You will need them for something you will not expect – lucky draws, subscriptions and unexpected turnouts etc.
4. Get to know the host – Most networking events are hosted by certain organization and associations, part of the reason to arrive early is also to have time to talk to the host and tell them what you do (if this is the first meetup). As a host, we respect people who turn up early. This is also an excellent time asking the host if they know of someone who can help or work hand in hand with your business.
5. Find out who will be attending the event – This works if you have a way to know who will be attending the event. If the event is displayed via FaceBook or Meetup.com, then you will be able to know who may be attending (via the guest list). After you know who will be attending, spend some time going through their websites and prepare some small talk topic when you meet them. You may even find a common interest between you and the person that will be attending the event =)
6. Prepare your 10 seconds ‘what you do’ pitch – To be honest, no one is interested in what you do in most networking events. If you fail to impress people during the initial 10 seconds of interaction, you will have to work harder to make yourself memorable. One tip I have here is to stress on the benefit when people ask ‘What you do for a living?’. If you are an Accountant, don’t reply saying that you are an accountant, just mention that you help businesses to cut down as much as 20% (or some statistics that is realistic) of their costs. An Entrepreneur with common sense will be eager to hear more and ask you how they can do that!
7. It is better to overdress – If you can’t figure out the dress code for the event, just dress formally. It won’t hurt by overdressing in most events. Appearing in formal dress code also signifies that you respect the host and VIPs of the event. Overdress will also make you memorable for most people especially the host.
8. Advertising Zone? – It is also important to ask the organizer if there is any way to share the benefits that your business will bring to the attendees on the event. Some business networking events will have some sort of ‘Advertising Zone’ that allows you to place your marketing materials for exposure. Some even have business booth.
9. Identifying the top 3 trades you need – Most businesses cannot survive on their own without forming alliances with leads flowing from one to another. For example, Corporate Services Provider works pretty well with Web Designers, IT Support Companies and Accountants. You need to place the top 3 trades that you are looking for on top of your mind at all times. Doing so will make it easier for you to connect with someone who is in the trade that you are looking for on any networking event.
10. Find out and participate in the event theme – Some monthly or Bi-monthly events do organize networking themes at times. For example, an event may request everyone to turn up with red-white theme in the month of Aug (Singapore National Day). Have fun and participate in the theme for the event. Participating in the theme also show that you are giving support to the host or organizer.
11. Have a light meal before the event – The main objective for all networking event is not to eat, or drink.. Some events have rather tight schedule and can have only 30 minute or less in total (after accounting people who are late for the event) for the people to enjoy their meal. Hence, I always have something light before the event and maximize the time by talking to people during the serving time. Just grab a drink and you are ready to connect!
12. Prepare a core marketing message along with the event – This tip works greatly with tip number 6 because you are now taking into consideration of the purpose of the attendees. Take for example, if you are Grant Consultant and you are attending an event for new business owners who are less than 6 months in business. Do you think you can ask questions like ‘Are you aware of these grants that help new startups to cut costs?’ or simply share how your clients have benefited from your Grant Consultancy.
13. Prepare questions to lead your prospects – All the people in the event are your prospects. The only way to help them is by asking questions. For example, a Web Designer can start by asking people if they have a website. If no, continue to ask why not? Of course, this may not be the first question you ask most of the times. Timing is critical here.
14. Invite your clients along – There is nothing better than having live testimonials talking about your services during a networking event! I see this as WIN-WIN because your clients will also benefit by talking and connecting to other businesses and there will be a great chance of your clients talking about you since you are the one who brought them to the event. Start by bringing three of your clients and see what I meant!
15. Bring your close business associates along – If you are unable to bring your clients to a networking event, then try inviting your close business associates along. They can be your close business partners where you have both work together and know each others’ businesses inside out. There will be opportunities where you will recommend someone who needs your business associate’s’ services and vice versa.
16. Broadcast the event that you are going – Write a blog post that you are attending the business event in advance or share it on your facebook status. Some people will be interested and contact you to find out more. This, in a way, will help you to connect to more people and help them by linking up with more connections. This method is extremely powerful and can help you to get exposure for your business as well if you have a corporate blog.
17. Set a target to help someone – I believe the power in giving. I make it a habit to see what can I do to help at least one person in any networking event nowadays. You may want to use the following question to start off, ‘May I know how can I help you in your business?’. To date, there are only a handful of business owners who ask me this question, and I can still remember who they are. Most importantly, I always find ways to support them and refer them more businesses they refer me. Do you see the effect here?
During the Event
18. Ask 80%, Share 20% – What I mean here is to talk less and listen more. In order to help someone like what I say in tip 17, you need to ask more questions. I figure out that the more questions I ask, the more I can help out the business owners either by connecting them with my sphere of influence or assist them in area of my expertise. I am aware that everyone of us is keen to share what we know, but you must also remember this, networking event is the worst place you share your stories..
19. Holding your drink using your left hand – We get into a bit of details here. You should practice holding your drink using your left hand to free your right hand as it makes you easier to shake hands with others. Just a small note here =)
20. Speak the the host first – Whenever possible, talk to the event organizer first soon after you arrive the event. Introduce yourself and check with the host if they know of anyone who is in the trades that you are looking for. In most cases, the host will be able to link you up with someone else.
21. Talk to the Guest Speakers next – Guest speakers hate to be alone. They value and respect anyone who comes to talk to them. So make the initiative to talk to the Guest Speakers and find out more about what they do and most importantly, how can you help them using tip 17. If you leave a good impression, they may even talk about you in their speech =)
22. Don’t spend too much time on a group / person – You should not spend too much time on the same group or person on the event although sometimes you may find that that person is comfortable to talk to… To tell you the truth, people attending the event also wants to maximize their time as well. Hence, move on and talk to other people after you get their cards, ask what they do and see if you can help them.
23. Respect business cards – You may not find this tip elsewhere but I feel that this is a good opportunity to include this here. Never write on people’s name cards in front of them. This simple act may place the business owner in an uncomfortable position. If you really must write on their cards, ask for their permission first.
24. Effective filtering of business cards – Throughout the networking event, you will receive tons of name cards and it is extremely useful to filter that person’s card immediately. Why? The reason because you may have forgotten who they are when you reach home or the next day. Hence, I use this very simple method – left and right pocket system. For example, if I am interested to work with that person after the event, I will place their business cards in my right pocket. This way, I know who to follow up another day.
25. Comment something on their cards – I miss this out in tip 23… One way to show respect to the business owners is to study and observe their name cards for a while and then comment on something. You can say that they have a nice logo, nice tagline, great slogan, or even where they got the design idea from. Never ever put people’s name cards into your pocket just after a quick glance!
After the Event
26. Send email and thank them for their time – The most important thing is to follow up with your contacts after the event. You can start by sending an email to them within 24 hours thanking their time. Try to make the email personal by addressing them individually.
27. This is not the beginning of spam – Please do not put all the emails into your subscribers system and start sending them information that they will not care. I have constantly receive email newsletter just by giving away my name cards. To be frank, I never engage products / services promoted by them using this method. Legally, they have not obtained our permission to opt-in.
28. Review the event and post online – In conjunction with tip 16, you can create a followup blog post sharing how you have benefit from the event. People who have missed the event will appreciate your effort as well putting up such a review.The organizer may even thank you and invite you back for the next event!
29. Do what you have promised – Now this is the time to followup what you have said on the event. Have you promised someone to help them in whatever means you can? Just followup and inform the person of the outcome and they will appreciate wanting to help back =)
30. Get started! – The above are useless if you did not practice them. The only person who can help your business is you and the only chance to make it happen is now! Make the first move and join up some relevant business events and see how networking can be fun and enjoyable!
Do you have any networking tips to share with us? Please post it in the comments below. I look forward in receiving them!