Dorchester Chamber for Business Vice President and a Director at KeeP106 the local radio station offers 10 tips to maximise your networking.
Networking can be nerve wracking but building contacts is invaluable to your business or the company you represent.
- Be prepared
Fail to plan and you plan to fail. Simple. When you are attending a networking event, make sure you have something to hold all the business cards you collect. If you get flustered when talking to people, try to rehearse what you will say beforehand. Think about how you present yourself and your skills on LinkedIn and then consider that networking is the real life equivalent. Think about how you present yourself and your skills on LinkedIn.
- Set yourself a target
A networking event is not just a social gathering – you are there to achieve something. Set yourself a target, it could be the number of people you want to talk to or are introduced to. If the number is 10 or 15 people, make sure you leave with 10 or 15 business cards.
- Do not have a set agenda
Remember: networking is about developing relationships – so don’t try to close a deal. You are not there to do business, you’re there to meet valuable contacts. Unless invited to avoid any sales pitches or business propositions at the event.
- Be a good guest
If you are attending a networking event it is important to be a good guest. Make sure you are not complacent and avoid sitting in the corner by yourself – otherwise nobody will talk to you. If you don’t make the effort to work the room, you’ll miss opportunities. Be friendly and open when you speak to people, and if you see someone sitting alone, go and say hello.
- Talk and listen
You’ve got to talk to people – but you have also got to listen to what the other person is saying. You want to know whether that the person you are speaking to is the right person for you to connect with. Ask yourself: “do I really need this person’s business card, or does he or she have nothing to do with my objective?” Listen and you will learn.
- Give referrals
Continuing from the previous tip –if you get the impression that the person, you are talking to is not relevant to your business, but you know of someone else at the event that may be of interest to them, you can refer them to the other person. This will help you to make good business connections as your contacts will remember you as the referrer.
- Take two business cards
At networking events there is a lot of exchanging of business cards – when talking to someone, ask for two of their business cards. Do not just take one for yourself, but also take one for someone you may know who may be interested in their business.
- Time management
It is important to keep track of time at networking events. If it is a breakfast seminar, then you will only have about 15 to 30 minutes to network and if you’ve given yourself the goal of talking to 10 people that gives you about three to four minutes with each person. So, make sure to manage your time effectively – do not spend 20 minutes talking to someone you already know or have met at a previous networking event, but rather spend your time talking to new people.
- Write everything down
If you do not have a great memory, keep a pen and paper in your pocket and write everything down. If you are going to meet 10 people in an hour you can’t guarantee yourself that you will remember the finer details of your conversation with each person, so it’s best to keep a written record of who you’ve spoken to and their line of business, along with a few details to jog your memory.
- Follow up
Most of important of all: follow up! Follow up with your newly formed contact on the day if possible and remind them of what your business has to offer to gauge their interest. If you do not follow up with your new contacts within one to two days, you’ve just wasted the entire networking event.
If you want more free business advice Dorset LEP have funded a limited number of places for Transformational Business Support including over 200 useful online short tutorials and 121 support, see Dorset – WSX Transformational Business Support (wsxenterprise.co.uk)