The easy way to network
Although it takes up time, 'talking' on Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook or Google Plus, it's an easy way to engage with the wider world because you're anonymous, or at least not face to face with who you're having the online conversation with.
The harder way to network
Meeting people face-to-face is a completely different ball-game and face-to-face networking is something you'd do well to master. So if you've ever asked yourself 'how do I network', or watched others make it look easy, here's some tips on how to get the best out of the networking meetings you go to:
Tip 1 Don't be late
Groups form early so make sure you're there as soon as the coffee is served. Watching people as they arrive will help you work out who looks interesting!
Tip 2 - Use networking to build long-term relationships
Don't treat it as a way to make a quick sale because you won't.
Tip 3 - Be interested rather than interesting
Don't be a bore and talk too much about yourself. The aim is to find out what everyone else in the room does. It's the main reason you're there and it'll help you idenitfy who you'd like to form an on-going business relationship with.
Tip 4 - Remember the other person's name
Repeat the other person's name as soon as possible, and repeat it throughout your conversation. If it's an unusual name don't be afraid to say so! Ask them to spell it (it shows you are interested in getting it right) and repeat it as soon as you can, and more than once.
Tip 5 - Don't end up speaking to only one person
If you're having trouble getting away from someone just point out that you'd like to meet as many people as possible while you're here. "It's been great finding out what you do but I think we should try and speak to as many people as possible today don't you?" They shouldn't be offended as they should want to meet lots of people too!
Tip 6 - Follow up
Do it as soon as possible but not the same day! or even the day after. Show you enjoyed your meeting by making reference to your conversation. Using Bcc to send everyone the same generic 'it was nice to meet you' message is lazy and best not sent at all.
What to say at networking meetings
If you're always stuck on how to approach someone you don't know, or how to start a conversation at a networking event, try some of these:
- Hello, my name is.... This is my first time at this meeting. Have you been to one before?
- How do you know ..... (the speaker/organiser)?
- Why did you come along today?
What is it that you do?
- What are you working on at the moment?
How did you get into your line of business?
What do you enjoy/not enjoy about your industry?
- Do you know anyone else here? Would you introduce me to them?
PS Make sure you listen (properly
listen) to their answers. It's quite possible you'll to pick up something that will help you do business with them in the future, either as a customer or a supplier!