In today’s business world, the right connections can open new doors and help you discover fresh opportunities.
Countless business-leaders attend networking events to expand their portfolio of useful contacts. By building long-term professional relationships, you’re putting support in place to overcome potential challenges in the future, creating alliances that may well take you to exciting, unexpected places.
Sounds daunting? Here are four tips to help you enjoy successful business networking …
Sounds familiar? You’ve likely heard this before. However, this is especially true when networking: trying to be someone you’re not (whether to improve your standing in the eyes of your new contacts or simply to attract attention) is unlikely to bring much of a reward.
People attending networking events are usually attuned to sincerity and lies. If you’re pretending to have more experience, more ongoing projects, or more knowledge than you actually do, you’re almost sure to be caught out. While people may be unlikely to confront you about this, they might simply avoid you or warn others to keep away.
If you’re worried you may be far less experienced than others in attendance, be honest about that. Say you’re looking to learn more about the business world, about your respective sector, and are keen to make contacts in a wider range of industries. People are far more likely to respond to you warmly if you’re honest and put yourself out there.
“You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”
Bear this cliched line in mind when networking. If you want someone to provide help or advice in the future but don’t want to do the same for them, why should they give you their time?
Speak to people, find out what they’re working on and aiming for, and offer any help you may be able to give. Show yourself as willing to invest time in others, and they might just return the favour – and recommend you to their friends and contacts.
Some people are shy. There’s nothing wrong with that.
However, at a networking event, you can’t afford to lurk in the shadows or avoid people’s eye. You might miss out on meeting new people, and, in turn, lose out on exciting opportunities in the future. You never know when a new contact might be able to offer you a new job, or propel you further up the ladder a rung or two.
Don’t be afraid to approach someone, or a group, and ask if you can join them. Offer your hand. Buy them a drink. Smile, say hello – it’s as simple as that.
If you normally struggle with this type of forward behaviour, consider that other people in the room will be shy too. You’re not alone, and even just making eye contact with someone can be enough to prompt conversation.
Networking events are not about selling your business to people. Yes, you want to interest them and get your name out there, but you don’t want anyone to feel as if you’re trying to push your company on them or see them as customers rather than peers.
If someone asks you what you do, or could be a potential customer, by all means give them your elevator pitch – but don’t drone on for five minutes about your profit margins or the amount of money you just made on your latest sale.
If you’re new to business networking, these four tips should help you get ahead. It takes time and practice, of course, but soon enough you could find yourself building essential bridges that help you get where you need to be.