Networking can play a big role in growing your business, but finding the right event and then making meaningful connections often doesn’t come as easily as we would like. Like any skill, becoming good at networking requires research and plenty of practice. Work the below practices into your networking routine, and you’ll be on your way to making the connections you need to achieve your business dreams.
Watch your body language.
How you carry yourself communicates a much stronger message than your words. Instead of sitting in a chair on the outskirts of the room looking at your phone, stand up, try to place yourself in the center of the action and leave your phone in your pocket. You may feel a little awkward at first, but push through it – eventually you will find someone to talk to. When you do, avoid crossing your arms, smile and make a point to be warm and welcoming.
Be selective about which events you attend.
Not all networking opportunities are created equal. Carefully evaluate the group the event will be catering to, and then ask yourself if it will help you with your business. If you’re unsure about you and your business being a good fit, attend once and then decide whether you’d like to continue, but don’t attempt to attend every networking event in your area. Focus on finding a couple high-quality groups that fit in with your business goals and that you add something to as well.
Be one of the first through the door.
If you’re worried about starting conversations at a networking event, simply arrive early. It’s much less intimidating to walk into a room with only a few people rather than a large group. The first couple people at networking events always talk to each other as well, guaranteeing you an initial conversation!
Come ready to help others, not just yourself.
While the purpose of networking is finding connections to grow your business, you also need to come ready to help out other people in the group as well. Actively look for opportunities to assist those you talk to, whether your business could be of service or you could connect them to someone they need to meet. This makes you a more valued member of the group and increases the likelihood people will want to help you when they can.
Networking is a catalyst for future business relationships and partnerships, but if you don’t take action after making a connection, the likelihood that it will go anywhere drastically decreases. Take time to send a follow up email, or better yet, a handwritten note, letting your new connection know how much you enjoyed meeting them.