Before the days of the internet social media and platforms like LinkedIn, professionals had to connect with one another face-to-face. Scary concept to think of in this day and age, but the benefits of networking events and making professional relationships traditionally are still valid and very strong in 2016.
Whilst the importance of social media and professional networking sites like LinkedIn cannot be disputed, a personal meet and greet can go a long way. So here are some tips and tricks on how to connect with the greater industry community (no matter what industry you work in), and how to make the most of networking events for both you and your business:
- Be confident and stand out from the crowd.
While networking events can be daunting experiences if you don’t know anyone in the room, they are a great opportunity to expand your horizons and boost your confidence levels. Be bold and approach individuals with a spring in your step. If you practice your elevator speech prior to attending you’ll have nothing to fear.
- Ask for a strategic introduction.
Want to get cosy with the CEO but don’t know how to approach him or her? Why not organise a strategic introduction? Networking is all about contacts, so search through your connections to find the right people to help you. You may just have that one connection who can get you in front of the right people at the right time.
- Explore your contacts’ passions, and play to their ego.
When meeting new people it is important to seek common ground so that a conversation can flow easily without strain. Asking leading questions of your contact is a great way to keep them interested and to find out more about them. Subtle plays to their ego also help, as people love to talk about themselves. Make your new contact the centre of attention for five minutes, and they will think the world of you before you’ve even been able to ask about your own business.
- Don’t inflate your profile.
Sure many people have told a few white lies on their resume/online profiles at one point or another, but claiming that you’re Superman could be a little extreme. The last thing you want to do is over-promise and under-deliver. Authenticity is a big part of creating and maintaining a professional reputation within the industry. So make sure everything you say, and everything that’s on your profile, is the truth and within your capabilities.
- Who you know is essential.
It’s all about who you know, not what you know has become the tag line of the new millennium, which is why building your connections is of so much importance. But who you know will only get you so far, you must have a backbone of knowledge and experience to continue your growth further. Connecting with new people can expand upon your knowledge too. Deepening your network through diversity is a great way to not only connect with more interesting people, but can help put you in front of the right people for the future too.
- Don’t rely on the cheese platters, free booze and business cards.
Networking events can become fairly messy towards the end of the night as the bar tab starts to reach its peak. As a professional, don’t just rely on the euphoria of free food and booze to ease the nerves and start the chatter. Again, it’s all about having confidence in yourself and your business to make those connections, start conversations, and collaborate from there. Making sure to connect with quality people is far better than seeking quantity. Business cards may be flowing, but they may not necessarily be the people you seek to build professional relationships. Take initiative to find the right connections.
- Follow up, then follow up again.
At the end of the night it’s important to reflect on those you met, and keep their contact details on hand for the future. Contacting them with a friendly email or invite on LinkedIn the next day is a great step to continue building that connection. Following up with them in a month’s time after that initial meet cements the connection further. If you don’t get an immediate reply from them, don’t stress. Just keep the lines of communication open for the future.
Successful networking can open the door to new industries, clients and projects as well so it’s time you tap into this incredible resource. Still not sure networking is the right strategy for your business? Check out our Strategic Marketing Guide for other great ideas to boost your business in 2016.