What is Networking?
Networking is about building, cultivating, and developing relationships with a large, diverse group of people who will gladly and continually refer business to you. A practical skill played out at well-organized trade shows, seminars, association meetings, and professional group meetings. A widely used tool for building rapport with others in order to give and receive ideas for learning and educating. It's about who you know, who knows you, and what you do for a living. When that person or someone needs your products and services, they will think of you, provided they like and trust you.
To network effectively, you must:
Understand the objectives of attending the event
Analyze the event
Overcome the fear of strangers
Follow-up and keep promises
There are certain skills involved with networking, some of which are:
Engaging in conversation
Giving the right impression
Disengaging from conversation
Follow-up on new contacts
Tips on Networking Effectively
Pre-Qualifying the Group
Attending meetings, joining organizations, and going to conferences and trade shows are all ways to meet people. However, if they don’t fit into the demographics you have decided are most apt to buy your products, you can waste a lot of time without ever getting any return on your effort.
If you are heading out to a meeting with the local chamber of commerce, you might want to find somebody who you know that already belongs to the group and ask them if they would introduce you to a couple of people. You might have a couple of people you want to meet that you know they know, or you might leave it up to them.
Prepare effective conversational openers. Know what the organization is about and what types of people will be there. The easiest way to be informed is to become an active participant in the organization. This is a great way to build relationships with other members before the events.
Spend some time and thought in preparing a self-introduction that sounds good and tells people what you want them to know. Practice until you can say it easily without feeling self-conscious.
How to Walk into a Room
Some people walk into a room as though to say, “Here I am.” However, you might be more successful if you walk into the room with an expression of, “Here you are!” on your face.
Don’t Just Stand There, Mingle!
If you are with a group, don’t freeze up. Walk around the room until you spot somebody else who looks like they are alone and then walk up to them, stick out your hand for a handshake, and introduce yourself.
How to Break into a Group
It can be hard to break into an already formed group. However, look for people who are alone like you, or for odd groups. In a group of three, for example, one person may be unattached or feeling left out of the conversation. Think of yourself as a host and look around for others who may need help.
Be the Person they Remember
In business, as in most aspects of life, what goes around comes around. Whenever possible, give a lead or referral to people you meet. They will remember it. Before you enter the room take a deep breath, walk in with confidence, and give the room a once over. Pick a place where people are congregating; the bar and food table are good places to begin the networking process! Start with simple questions.
Perhaps there is somebody in the group who can help you get an introduction to someone you would like to meet. Ask them if they are willing to act as an intermediary.
Nobody wants to get a wet fish handshake, and they don’t want a crusher handshake either. A firm grip so the web between your thumb and forefinger is against the web of the other person’s thumb and forefinger usually gives you the right grip. Your handshake should be firm, short, one-handed (right), and be accompanied by a smile.
Pick a Card, Not Just Any Card
At business functions you are expected to have business cards. Don’t pass out business cards like they are candy. However, do pass one to anyone who asks or who has expressed an interest in your products or services. Or, at the end of a conversation, ask for the person’s card and offer yours. When someone gives you their card, take time to look at it before slipping it in your pocket or wallet. Do not write on the back unless you ask them first; respect their card. Later, make note of where you met the person and what the date was; this will help with follow-up.
Focus on One Person at a Time
When talking with someone, don’t let your eyes wander to others in another area of the room. Give that person your full attention until you are ready to move on. You never know when opportunity will knock. Have you ever had someone look over your shoulder? It is rude behavior. Focus on that person; it’s not only polite, it’s effective networking. Try to use the person’s name three times in a conversation; it makes the person feel good, and it will help you to remember it.
Have Fun! Be Positive! Remember Body Language!
Use open body language, with arms at your sides and an alert, pleasant expression on your face.
Always send a thank you note to the host or hostess of the event. Fax an article of interest to someone you spoke with. If a connection has been made and you tell the person you will call them to set up a meeting, call within 24-48 hours. If you wait too long you can lose credibility.
If you are going to an event it can sometimes increase your confidence and your comfort to bring a buddy along. However, make sure you and your buddy agree not to stick to one another like glue. Make an effort for each of you to meet others, introduce others to your buddy, and you will have doubled the number of people you can network with in an evening.
Use these questions to generate small talk with your partner. Substitute “widget” for their business.
How did you get your start in the widget business?
What do you enjoy most about your business?
What separates you from your competition? (Let them brag!)
What advice would you give someone starting out in your business?
What one thing would you do with your business if you knew it could not fail?
What significant changes have you seen take place in your business throughout the years?
What do you see as the coming trends in the widget business?