Networking events can be nerve-wracking, tiring, frustrating and boring. You may get tired of repeating your elevator pitch over and over and handing out business cards may make your arm hurt. Even though you may dislike networking events they can be very valuable to your business and getting new business if you know how to network properly. There are a few best practices that I feel are very important to a successful networking event and I'd like to share them with you.
It may sound funny that I added this to the best practices list but it's extremely important. I've attended many networking events where I saw business owners just standing there, shy, not knowing what to do. I can also be shy and occasionally I can have some social anxiety at networking events but it's important that you step out of your comfort zone. If you stand in a corner and don't talk to anyone, what good is a networking event going to do you?
Become Friends & Build Trust
Networking events are usually professional atmospheres with many business owners exchanging business cards, pitching their business, etc... Most conversations stay strictly professional and end with another business card for your collection. Would you trust someone you just met and don't know very well? I wouldn't. If that person didn't make an impact on me I probably will forget about them and their business shortly after putting that business card in my pocket. It's important to leave a lasting impression when you are networking and one way to do that is building rapport and becoming friendly with the other business owner. If you trust someone you're much more inclined to think of them first when a business need arises.
Social Networking Daily
Again, this may sound silly but some people don't think of social networking as networking. Social networking is just as important, if not more important, than actual face-to-face networking. Facebook is a great tool for social networking because you can join groups related to your industry or just general entrepreneurs. Within these groups you can showcase your knowledge and expertise by answering questions, starting conversations or even potentially finding clients through those groups. This is a great option for someone who is shy or who struggles with social anxiety. I like to suggest to spend a minimum of 45 minutes a day networking on social platforms. This might sound like a large part of the day to a busy entrepreneur but that 45 minutes could translate to a long-term client.
Ditch the Sales Pitch
You have five seconds to get the attention of someone you're speaking to at a networking event so why don't you make that first impression a lasting one? Everyone and their uncle has their elevator pitch ready to go when they step into a networking event and most of them sound robotic, practiced and too professional for my taste. When I meet someone at a networking event I don't want them to immediately try to sell their product or business to me because I might not need it at that exact moment. I would rather the person describe who they are and what they do in a more personal manner. Try to warm up your elevator pitch by being more friendly and less sales-y.
Be Enthusiastic About Your Industry
You don't want to sound like your boss forced you to attend the networking event by promising you a free cup of coffee the next day, yet many people do seem like they were forced to go. I know business can be draining and networking events can be repetitive but be enthusiastic about what you do. Sound excited and seem like you're really excited to tell the potential prospect about what you do and why you enjoy doing it. If you're passionate about your industry your potential prospect will be more inclined to want to work with you in the future. Those who are passionate about what they do will do work better than someone who works for the sake of working.