Over the past 3 years, I’ve been to hundreds of networking events and have met over a thousand new people. Networking has brought me more business than any cold calling campaign and more friends than any Facebook post.
I can say that networking has been beneficial to me both professionally and personally and because of these benefits I wrote a few ideas that I’ve learned over the years to help you gain more business and make deeper connections with those you meet at networking events.
1. Don’t be Good, Be Excellent
At any networking event, the one question that you’ll always get is “How are you?”
This question is low hanging fruit for you to make a great first impression. For years I’ve answered this question as most people do by saying “Good, how are you?”
Good is boring, good is uncreative, and you are neither of these. Next time you go to an event, head over to powerthesaurus.org and find a synonym that will replace “good”. This tactic alone has made me raise countless eyebrows and will also give you more confidence. The more I share that I’m “excellent” with other people, the more I often start to believe it myself.
2. Share “What You Do” After They’ve Asked
I go to every event with the attitude that no one cares about who I am and what I do, until I show them how much I care about who they are and what they do. Ask questions, learn about them, get their card first and 9 times out of 10 they will return the favor.
Don’t tell people what it is you do until they’ve asked. If you have shown honest interest in them and their business first, they will most likely feel compelled to learn more about you. If you have done your due diligence and they still don’t ask what it is that you do, that’s a sign of a person you don’t want in your network.
But when they do ask, see the next step below.
3. Prepare Your Intro
Before going to an event, take time to create a brief introduction. Get creative, be specific, and keep it short and sweet.
Here’s an example, “Hi, my name is Joe the Janitor and I handle the most important marketing aspect for my clients, which is the first impression customers get when they walk into their clean place of business.”
Along with telling people who you are, make sure to tell them what you do.
After coming up with a awesome intro, practice it to make sure you don’t sound like a robot. Practice your intro and record yourself. Go back and refine your intro so that it sounds non-scripted and natural. The more you practice, the more authentic it will be.
4. Follow Up
While you’re talking with someone, make sure to take notes of the things that stick out to you on the back of their business card. This shows the other person that you truly care to learn more about them and their business and it will help you to refer back to your notes when following up.
When you follow up with a contact, send a simple email by saying something along the lines of “It was a pleasure meeting you” or go further by sharing ideas that may help the other person save time or money in their business. Send them an email without expecting anything in return (but have confidence that something may come of it).
5. Get the Conversation Rolling
When you first start talking to someone new or if the conversation comes to an awkward halt, ask the other person open ended questions such as “Tell me what is going on in your business” or “What have you been up to that’s new and exciting?”
These questions are broad enough to allow the other person the elaborate. Questions like these often lead to engaging news or problems the other person may be dealing with in which you may be able to help.
6. Deal with “We’ve met before”
If networking is a big part of your business, there will be times where you run into someone who you’ve met before and simply cannot remember their name.
A great way to avoid offending them is to simply say “Hi, it’s nice to see you. How’s business?” This isn’t a lie because you really do believe that it’s nice to see them and by asking them how’s business will get them talking about themselves and what they do, which often sparks something in your memory of where you met them before.
At most events people are wearing name tags and by using this line will free up time for you to take a glance at the name tag to remember who the person is.
I would love to hear your feedback on what has worked for you when it comes to business networking. Please share your ideas in the comments below or give me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Louis Lee is the Membership Chair of the Mahoning Valley Young Professionals