We get it. Walking into a roomful of strangers to promote your small business is daunting. And, in our modern, connected world there has never been more ways to spread the word. The likes of social media, digital advertising and your own website provide an invaluable online presence, but good old-fashioned in-person networking remains the single most effective way to put your business on the map.
Rubbing shoulders with like-minded individuals allows far more potential for lasting relationships to build. It can help you build confidence, raise the profile of your business, and allow for the sharing of knowledge among entrepreneurs in your industry. With opportunities to network happening all the time, maximise your chances of success by following these seven tips for networking success.
Do Your Research
Time is one of the most valuable commodities available to an entrepreneur. It’s important you don’t waste it. If there are certain key individuals you are hoping to meet at a networking event, look them up online. Find out things you may have in common, read up on their background, and discover potential talking points. Arriving armed with information and plenty to talk about will ensure conversation flows freely.
Dress to Impress
Dress for the job you want, not the job you have…
You only get one shot at making a first impression. Whether you like it or not, our tendency is to judge others based on how they look. Remember, you’re the founder and CEO of your small business, dress in the manner you’d expect a person of that stature to present themselves. Your attire can also help get the conversation flowing at a networking event; don’t be afraid to mix in a conversation starter. It could be a pocket handkerchief, a memorable brooch, or a scarf.
Networking events aren’t to be confused with speed dating events. The object isn’t to get your business card into as many hands as possible. Instead, focus on longer and more meaningful interactions with attendees. If you float from face to face quickly nobody is going to remember you. Try to make real connections by spending time with a few people, asking questions, listening purposely, and moving beyond small talk when you can.
Don’t Give the Hard Sell
Yes. You are there to spread the word about you and your business. However, nobody wants to be on the receiving end of a pushy product pitch. Focus on building connections and organically mentioning your business when appropriate. This approach will still yield leads and avoid any possible distaste at your sales tactics.
A huge percentage of people are introverts and may find social get togethers like networking events awkward. You can play an active role in making a more pleasant event by taking the time to introduce yourself to people. Avoid the temptation to blend into the background and look at your phone. A great way to approach this is to set yourself a target. At your next networking event, why not try to introduce yourself to five people?
According to a 2012 study by the Beckman Institute, strangers form a better impression of people who offer their hand in greeting. Starting an interaction with a firm, friendly handshake has long been a staple of the business world. Alongside your handshake, make eye contact, ask questions and focus on the person you’re interacting with. Good manners are increasingly in short supply in today’s hectic world.
Don’t Forget to Follow-up
The event is over, but there’s still an opportunity for you to create a lasting impression. Make sure to check-in within a few days of the event. If you wait any longer, it may give the impression you weren’t interested. Mention conversations you shared at the event or connect on LinkedIn. If the connection was especially strong, arrange a meeting over coffee to explore opportunities to work together.
Practice Your Networking
Each month, Small Business BC’s Waterfront Chats Meetup Event provides an opportunity to hear from and network with local entrepreneurs and organizations. Learn about their successes, barriers and challenges to launching and growing their small businesses. Attendees will also be given an opportunity to provide a thirty-second business pitch and network.