Take the Work out of Networking

I ‘m due to attend yet another networking event tomorrow evening (hosted by Women on the Move).

Yes, it ‘s that time of year again, when fun barbecues (where it ‘s often easier to mix) turn to enclosed spaces in upmarket conference suites in hotels, where you are expected to speak to other entrepreneurs, sell your business or promote your idea.

It ‘s terrifying, I ‘ll admit, the first time round. But here are some surefire ways to get those butterflies flying in formation (lovely imagery, unashamedly stolen from a friend)!

My strategies:

  1. Familiarise yourself with the list of attendees. Most organisations that host networking events will have a list, if not by name at least by organisation. It ‘s worth scanning that before you go, to help you tailor your marketing materials, select an appropriate business card, or prepare a spiel.
  2. Dress appropriately. At most networking events I attend, 80% of people appear to have just left the workshop or got up from a computer screen and arrive crumpled and untidy. Would you do business with someone who was not prepared to pay attention to their own image? Perhaps they will pay as little attention to your business image? It ‘s a fact (get over it) that our society pays lots of attention to appearance.
  3. If you are trying to get a conversation going with another business person, try the following openers: Tell me about your business/business idea? What is the most positive thing you have gained from these events? Have you designed your marketing materials or website yet? Can you recommend.? I met our logo designer and several venue hosts at networking meetings.
  4. Your elevator speech is the greatest tool you have to start off conversations (so-called because it should be entirely repeatable in a short elevator ride). It is what you say in response to, So, what is your business? Know what you stand for and how you stand out.
  5. To help promote your business, take a business card, flyer or other promotional material with you. This helps to professionalise your business (along with that smart suit!). Ensure it is made by a quality company and packaged well.
  6. Finally, smile! No apologies for the cliché. Nothing encourages contact like a friendly face. If you find other attendees unwelcoming, move on to the next person. And, remember, work that room!

We can help with your networking anxieties. Contact us for some Business Coaching, or attend our next Networking workshop.

This post appeared first on LInked Business Strategists, for which Sensei Learning and Performance writes a weekly column on Business Start-up Strategies. You can join the forum and read other similar columns and blogs, by signing up as a user.

Update 25/10/07: I met some new people tonight and made contacts which will be useful for the future, as well as listening to a very interesting talk by Hammy Tappenden.