While networking online is important, some of the best business relationships can be made after meeting face-to-face. These 7 business networking tips will help you make the most of your next event.
Before the Event
– DO have your business cards ready. When you meet people, there won’t be time to find notebook paper and a pen to write down your contact information. It also is highly unprofessional. Having a business card is a quick way to exchange information.
– DON’T go to every event. If you’re in a fairly large city, there are probably networking events going on every night. Instead of visiting every one, choose events that will either contain your target market or people who can introduce you to people in your target.
During the Event
– DO ask for contact information. If you’ve just spent a few minutes connecting with someone, then ask for her business card to keep in touch. Don’t let the conversation end with the event. If the person you’re speaking with doesn’t have a card, offer yours. Once your chat has ended, write some information about the person on the back of the card to remember them. Note: if you’re at an international event, check the local customs before writing on the back of a business card. In some cultures, it is seen as a sign of disrepect.
– DON’T stay in one conversation for too long. Even the best conversations can get stale after awhile. Remember that your goal is to network with several people, not just the one you connect with first. If you find yourself talking with a “Chatty Cathy” or “Talkative Tim,” then wait for a pause, tell the person how much you enjoyed the conversation and then excuse yourself. If you are the one who usually talks too much, then make a point of asking the other person a question first. This gets him talking and positions you as a good listener.
After the Event
– DO follow-up. Networking is about building relationships. You never know who could refer you to someone in the future or who needs your products/services now. Believe it or not, following up with others could set you apart. I’ve been to many networking events where I never received an “it was great to meet you” email or phone call after the event. I’ve even been told by someone that out of the 50 people she met that night, I was the only one to follow-up. Don’t let those business cards collect dust. Reach out.
– DON’T send blanket impersonal messages. Again, networking is about building relationships. Make sure to mention something personal in your follow-up message. Did the person ask a question that helped your business, did he or she offer you words of wisdom, do you have a referral to give? Show the person that you remember who he or she is and want to cultivate a business relationship. It’s okay to keep some parts of the message the same for all follow-ups, such as the description of your business or where you met. If you still want to send a “great meeting you” email blast, remember email etiquette. Put yourself in the reply-to box, and put the rest of the contacts in the BCC or blind carbon copy field. This keeps everyone’s email address private.
– DO know who you are following up with. I recently received a friend request on one of my social networks that read, “Hi Michelle! It was great meeting you at XYZ event the other day. Let’s connect online.” At first glance, this seems like a great message. It’s personal and was sent only days after the networking event. The problem is that my name is not Michelle, and I didn’t attend XYZ event. If you note the author box on the side bar or bottom of this post, you’ll notice that my name is Dequiana. 🙂 I appreciate this guy wanting to reach out, but it’s clear he was sending out blind friend requests or copying/pasting his greetings. Needless to say, that friend request has not yet been answered.
Have any of these tips worked for you? Share your business networking advice and stories in the comment box below.