Networking

6 Ways To Get The Most Out of Networking

Networking has many forms, formal and informal, virtual and real-world. It can include getting business through playing golf, the use of LinkedIn and through dedicated networking meetings.

But, why network?

To improve your business, of course.

That’s it, in a nutshell. And how are you going to do that?

1. Expand your network of contacts by talking to people.

Find out the format and the arrangements for breakfast

Do your preparation beforehand. Who is going?

Think about what you are going to say.

Think about your strapline and goals.

Dress the part. You don’t have to go around in a business suit all day long, but you also don’t want to look too casual or sloppy. You want to give off the vibe that you could easily fit into a professional environment. Do everything you can to keep your appearance up, no matter where you are -- who knows who you might run into!

2. At the Meeting

Networking doesn’t come easy to many of us, but it also isn’t as difficult as you might think.
All you’re really doing there is meeting new people. The sooner you realize that some other folks in the room are equally as uncomfortable in these situations, the sooner you’ll be able to get over your inhibitions and start a conversation. And who knows, the person you say hello to might be even more nervous than you and if so, you’ve just rescued them from themselves and given them someone to talk to.

It's scary but that’s ok. Approach each interaction from a place of confidence; know your strengths and if you can’t do anything to help this person, do you know someone else who can? If not, you can move on. Don’t be boring!

3.DOs and DONTs
a.Don't Sell, LISTEN.

You are there to meet people — that is the entire purpose of the event. This is not the time to sell someone on your product or service. If someone seems particularly interested then get his or her contact information and promise to follow up the next day. It’s also not the time to rabbit on about how awesome your company is. Curb your enthusiasm and share as much as is asked for in the conversation. You don’t want to be the person who monopolizes the conversation. It’s a two-way street. You are there to help them as much as you would like them to help you.

b. Eat With Your Left Hand – this is for non-virtual meetings, obviously.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that no one wants to shake your hand if you’ve just had it all over a piece of toast. The second is that you will likely shake many hands over the course of the event. Do you really want to do that and eat with the same hand? Your right hand is for shaking hands. Your left hand is for eating. When you’re not eating, hold your drink in your left hand so your right hand is free to engage. It’s common sense and you’ll end up ingesting fewer germs.

c. Know Your Tagline

You are going to be asked what you do or what company you work for. Whether you talk about your company or your role, have a one liner ready that goes beyond just your title. For example, “I work for Genesis” is really not all that informative. Take it one step further: “I work for Genesis, the digital pencil company.” The same is true for entrepreneurs. Go beyond just saying the name of your company and add a little colour by way of explanation as to what it is your company does.

d. Don’t Hover By The Bacon

By all means have a few drinks and some nibbles, but make some room for other people. You don’t want folks to question if you have anything in your fridge at home. Grab a drink, say hello to the person next to you and move off, making space for someone else.

e. Maintain Eye Contact

There is nothing worse than being in a conversation with someone and having them constantly scanning the room. Maintaining eye contact with the person you are speaking with is basic good manners. If you are keeping an eye out for someone then say so. Otherwise it will just feel like you’re looking for someone more interesting to talk to and that’s hardly the way to endear yourself to a new contact.

f. Break Into A Group Politely

Do not approach a group and start speaking. Not even to introduce yourself. You have no idea what you might be interrupting. Instead, step up, smile and make eye contact with one or two people. Assuming they are decent folks, then at the appropriate time someone will introduce themselves and you can do the same. If that does not happen after a couple of minutes then put it down to their lack of social graces, say excuse me and walk away. There is always someone else to talk to.

g. Don’t email-bomb people with the attendance list

It’s too pushy and will probably put people off. Think twice even before emailing people to whom you have actually spoken unless there was a discussion between you which required following up..

4. First impressions matter

If you form a good first impression, leave a business card and then follow up with an email that is three positive pieces of contact you have had with that person in just one meeting. There’s now a good chance they will remember you, if they or someone else they know, needs a person like you.

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and 72% of networkers say your appearance and handshake will set the tone for your entire interaction. Dress for networking as you would for an interview, navy blue or black clothing with a splash of colour from a scarf or tie works best.

Be prepared to listen and bear in mind that you are also at the meeting to help other people to do business.

Take a leaf out of Inigo Montoya’s book and adapt his famous greeting from The Princess Bride:

  • Polite Greeting - Hello
  • Give your Name - “My name is Inigo Montoya.”
  • Provide a relevant personal link - “You killed my Father.”
  • Manage expectations - “Prepare to die.”

“The perfect handshake is given palm to palm, with a firm but not tight grip and includes two shakes – any more can seem aggressive. Don’t touch the other person’s arm or shoulders as those are dominance gestures which may not be well received. Make eye contact during the handshake, and smile!”

5. Take business cards

Business cards are still one of the most effective ways of advertising your services. Handing one over can be a little awkward. You make the first impression with your conversation, but your card should echo that and encourage the person to get in touch if they want to follow up. The results may surprise you.

6. Follow up

And finally, follow up yourself. If you’ve spoken to someone, send them a quick email the next day to thank them for their time. Send over any material that they might find interesting – your CV, or a link to that great article you were discussing.

If you form a good first impression, leave a business card and then follow up with an email that is three positive pieces of contact you have had with that person in just one meeting. There’s now a good chance they will remember you, if they or someone else they know, needs a person like you.

Do more research to find out more about the people you have spoken to.

IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU

Pay it forward. Always remember the importance of being a good networker from both sides. If you have the opportunity to help someone who is job hunting, remember what that felt like, and how even the smallest kindness was so important.

Things may not go according to plan. Don’t be put off. Networking is not as easy as you think, but it will become easier. And before you know where you are, the person who was once too shy to think about speaking in public will be asked to speak to networking colleagues to explain what it’s all about.

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