Networking and Interaction
- DURING THE EVENT
Having made an effort to prepare for an event will make it a better experience for you and those you’ll interact with.
When initially walking into a room it can be tempting to approach people we already know or hang around by the bar or refreshments table. Of course it’s important to connect with existing contacts – that’s part of maintaining those relationships. However it’s also about meeting new people. A good place to start is small groups of two or even people standing on their own.
If the group you approach is in mid conversation then wait to be invited in. You can actually begin building rapport using non-verbal body language – making eye contact, smiling and nodding. We’re never not communicating. Even without saying a word our body language speaks volumes.
Think about how you’ll introduce yourself – rather than just stating your job title or role, how about framing it in a way that tells the other person who you help or what types of projects you get involved in? Once you have introduced yourself, listen carefully so that you can tailor your response. Having spent some time in preparation you’ll also have some interesting questions or topics ready to keep the conversation flowing. Keeping the focus on the other person, shows you’re interested.
All good things come to an end. You’re there to network so you need a good exit strategy once you’ve spent some time with a group. This doesn’t need to be awkward – just involves a little planning. Here are a couple of suggestions: Ask if there is anyone you can introduce your new contact to and offer to take them over to another group or ask them to suggest who you should speak to next and then excuse yourself.
Before you do, it may be appropriate to exchange business cards – it might be easier to connect on LinkedIn/Twitter etc. there and then. Most people don’t do anything with cards they collect other than put them in a drawer in the office. However, you could write down something as a reminder of the conversation you just had that helps you remember the person and/or if you offered to help in some way such as sending a link or article you can jot it down on the card. It shows you’ve paid attention.
- AFTER THE EVENT – THE MOST IMPORTANT PART…
This is the step that without doubt many people fail to do effectively. Connecting with your new contacts the next day or as soon as possible afterwards is so important. It can be via an invite through LinkedIn or email. Send a personal message referring to your conversation – you can do this within your LinkedIn invite too. Rather than just clicking the default “please accept my invitation” button, edit the text and add a short message – it’s so much more personal and helps you stand out from the crowd, creating a good impression.
Already, very few people do the step above and even less carry on from there! Building lasting relationships takes time and effort – not necessarily a huge amount but some. Momentum is key. Think about a follow up strategy. Would it be appropriate to set up a coffee meeting soon? Could you be a connector and introduce your new contact to someone else in your network? At some point they may return the favour. We all have great intentions and mean to check in with contacts but time slips away and priorities take over. Diarise a follow-up in a few weeks to help you keep on track.
Social media is a part of our lives in some form or other. Why not use it for business and networking? Every time you comment on a post or publish one, people see it – they may not always like or post a comment in return but that doesn’t mean you’re not being seen. Think about getting involved – it helps you stay top of mind.
Networking is so much more than turning up to an event. It starts long before the event and continues long after – through email, social media and face-to-face contacts.
Business Growth Partner Jay Surti is a Speaker, Author of Authentic Business Presenter and an NLP Trainer who works with Business Leaders helping them improve their presentation and speaking skills. Connect with Jay: @authenticspeak @Advantage_BP