Rock Networking Events-Business Strategies
It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re an extrovert or an introvert. Chances are you’ll feel as if you missed several opportunities to soar in any given Networking event.
Following these twenty-one ideas for effective engagement will help you connect like a rock star while noticeably improving your comfort level.
You’ll be so busy enjoying the people you meet, you won’t have time to feel uncomfortable or shy.
1. Use Follow-Up QuestionsDon’t just think up great “openers”; think up great follow up questions for when the person you’ve approached responds to your opener.
For example, let’s say you’ve just opened with the old standby: “So what do you do?” What do you say when the person you’re talking to answers: “I’m the senior buyer for a major department store”?
If all you can think of is “oh, that’s nice” your new contact will be less than impressed.
Think up follow-up questions that will get her talking. Try to put yourself in her shoes, and do your best to remember great follow-up questions other people have asked you in the past.
- “What do you like most about being a ___________?”
- “What got you started in _____________?”
- “Did you imagine in high school you’d be a __________ one day, or did you always know you were going to ____________?”
- “That must entail a lot of responsibility. How do you deal with _________?”
You can also begin your questions with follow-up statements:
- “My uncle used to work as a _________. He always said ___________. Do you find that’s true or have things changed nowadays?”
- “I don’t think I could _______________. I have a problem with _______. Is that a challenge for you too or do you find it easy to___________?”
Anticipating questions you can ask – and brainstorming follow-up questions as well as openers guaranteed to get the other person talking – are wise strategies. If you keep these questions in your back pocket, and apply them as opportunity allows (rather than forcing them).
2. Make Sure They Remember You
One of the easiest ways to do this is use the humble but hated nametag.
Now, no doubt you’ve been given one to wear, but if you’re like many women, you’ll have either modestly put it on your clipboard, your briefcase or purse – or you will have splatted it proudly on your lapel.
Think about this for a moment. If you place it too low, people are going to feel uncomfortable staring at your chest! Make sure you place it high up, nearer your shoulder.
Of course, a nametag isn’t the only way to make sure you are remembered.
Brand yourself with a visual clue: For example, always wearing big black polka dots to networking events. (Super blogger Sandi Krakowski is known for the pink streak in her hair.)
Whatever visual branding you decide on, however, make sure it’s something you feel comfortable with – and something that is relevant to your audience.
Like this colorful name-tag you can purchase:
3. Ask for Your New Contact’s Business Card
When you’ve spent ten minutes chatting to someone, ask for further contact.
The safest way to do this is still to simply say: “Let’s exchange business cards.” And have yours handy.
And if you’ve run across someone who doesn’t like business cards, be prepared.
Say: “No matter: Give me your contact information and I’ll just enter it in my mobile.”
They are psychologically much more likely to part with it if you ask for it as an alternative to the business card they don’t like to carry.
4. Use Business Cards As “Quick Reference” Cards
As soon as you can (without doing it under the nose of the person you’ve just met) use the business card you’ve been given.
Write quick, relevant, point-form notes on the back.
(For example, “Volunteers at Habitat for Humanity. Dachshund (Binky, age 14).”)
5. Carry a business card holder
Surprisingly few people remember to do this.
A flat, wallet-shaped business card holder lets you slip people’s cards into its own neat little transparent pocket, keeping it safe – and accessible.
It lets people see you treat their business cards with respect, instead of shoving them in your pocket.
Take this one step further by keeping a spare business card holder and making sure you take it empty to each event.
That way, at the end of the night, you’ll have a collection of cards unique to that event.
When you get home, you can write the name and date of the event on the back of each card as you file these in your Rolodex. (You won’t have to waste time writing this at the actual event.)
6. Purchase a Unique Business Card Holder From Amazon
There are two strong reasons to do this:
- You can choose a personalized business card holder, cutting down on the chance of theft (yes, unfortunately this does happen) and increasing your chances of having it returned to you if you mislay it
- It can be a conversation piece – something that people ask you about as they see you cheerfully tuck their card away
Plus – reason number three – there’s a great selection on Amazon of business card holders. You’re sure to find one that perfectly represents you and your personality.
Business Card Holders From Amazon (click the image to check it out)
7. Put a Call-To-Action On Your Business Card
You have this great little piece of business real estate – so make the most of it.
Include a call-to-action.
Even if it’s only “Find me on Twitter: @MaryMcSnappy”.
8. Admire Business Cards
Don’t do this with a standard, blah business card – but if someone has a snazzy card designed with flair and forethought, stop and admire it.
Compliment your new contact on their card.
Tell them why you like it.
Ask questions such as “Where did you get the idea to have it printed on fabric?”
Noticing and genuinely admiring something that your contact has put thought and imagination into is a great way to set off on the right foot.
9. Customize Business Cards For Each Networking Event
Each event will be different.
It will be for a different segment of you industry, have different goals or consist of a different base of attendees.
(There is a big difference between a general University Alumni banquet, where you are going to meet a mix of people in all sorts of industries, and a technology conference for designers, where you are going to meet graphic designers – and both might be events relevant to you, if your specialty has anything to do with graphic design.)
Have a set of business cards made that reflects the event’s purpose.
If an event promises to be informal and friendly, “dumb” down your business card tagline: Instead of saying “CTS Decon” on your business card, put “I clean up crime scene gore”.
If you’re looking for potential clients (or people to interview) state what you do very clearly. (“I help people create perfect websites.”)
10. Use Unique Give-Away Items
Another way to make sure you are remembered: Give away physical items that are fun and unique – for example, instead of business card, a small wallet calendar (with your logo on).
Don’t give anything excessive as an introduction – keep things like mouse pads or baseball caps for your booth or table.
Tie your giveaway in with your own skills and hobbies: For example, if you love origami and you’re a realtor who specializes in beach properties, give people your contact details on an origami whale (something that is relevant to your business; something relatively flat they can slip in their pocket or purse!)
11. Carry Extra PensNetworking Tip: What do people always find themselves without at networking events? You guessed it: Something to write with. Carry extra pens
(Or they may have diligently made sure they brought pens, but in accordance with Murphy’s Law, these pens have mysteriously stopped working.)
If you’re the one with the extra pens, you get a chance to save the day.
And if you put your name, tagline and contact details on the pen, so much the better!
Click the image to check it out:
12. Donate To Networking Events
If you can fit in a “freebie giveaway” budget, donate items to the event itself. Just make sure the items are incredibly useful and memorable.
For example, if you’re attending a “Home Renovation” event, you can be sure people will be giving away larger brochures, so supply participants with nice-looking, easy-carry totes where they can stash the material they’ve picked up – and brand it with your colors and contact information.
If people are going to want to take notes, give out mini-clipboards with notepads and pens on. Brand it.
Or if it’s an outdoor sports event, give away baseball caps branded with your information.
The key with any sort of giveaway is to:
- Make sure the giveaway is visually and aesthetically pleasing – a nice shape that fits comfortably in a pocket or beautiful colors
- Ensure it is going to be something indispensable – something highly useful and relevant
- It must includes your contact information and what you do – your big benefit – so that when people need someone who provides what you provide, they remember to go check out that baseball cap or mini-clipboard that they are still using.
13. Lose The Paper Nametag
Have a permanent custom badge made – something that reflects your business.
Not only can it be a conversation piece; choosing the right shape or graphic with your name displayed within or underneath it can help people remember you much better than they remember your peers.
Or perhaps you can put your name on a custom-made tin badge with your snappy slogan – the one you wrote specifically for this event.
Or even on that origami item I talked about in Idea # 10.
Click the image to check it out:
14. Volunteer At Networking Events
This has two advantages: You are perceived as someone on the “inside” – someone who it could be worthwhile getting to know – and you get a “sneak peek” at the people attending without any pressure on you – all while you’re helping them.
Believe it or not, volunteering can be the perfect strategy if you are an introvert. The benefits vary, but are substantial. Among them:
- You get a chance to familiarize yourself with the venue before the rest of the world arrives.
- You get to meet key organizers who will make you feel comfortable.
- You can “hide” behind your official capacity and speak to people in comfort.
And familiarizing yourself in advance with new places is something you probably consciously do already – only this time, you’re also familiarizing yourself with people you want to meet.
Not only do you get to meet and assess people, you also get to decide on exactly who you want to follow up with later.Introvert Networking Tip: Become a volunteer at the networking event
15. Arrive Early To The Networking Event
This simple little strategy can make you more valuable contacts than all other strategies lumped together!
When you arrive early, you meet other proactive and organized people. There is a more relaxed pace, and people naturally tend to chat – you are “killing time” together. That’s when the most natural conversations take place.
That’s when people really remember you.
16. Do Your Homework – Dos And Don’ts
Study the event literature ahead of time. Check out the Event’s Facebook Page, if it has one, and make a note of people you would like to connect with.
Look them up – but don’t be creepy about it.
Don’t research every detail of their personal lives and then scare the socks off your new contact by asking about her daughter Phyllis’ dance recital if you’ve only just been introduced at the event.
Know just enough to focus on one thing – their specialty is a safe bet.
Then you can say with perfect truth, “I hear you are expert to go to, when it comes to podcasting set up.”
Just don’t ask for free advice on your WordPress podcasting plugin conflict: Instead focus on your contact, and give them an opening to talk about why they love podcasting or whatever else is relevant.
If you think you can absolutely use your new contact’s services, ask if she has an opening for a new client.
Exchange business cards or contact details, promise to call or email about your needs – and do so within twenty-four hours.
17. Bring Someone With You To the Networking Event
“Two heads are better than one.”
If you are shy or nervous about attending the event, ask someone to go with you.
Choose carefully, and choose someone whose presence would add to the event – and who would genuinely enjoy it.
For example, if your cousin Clare brings out your silly, giggly side and you always find yourself wishing you hadn’t got sucked into her silliness, she is definitely not the best person to ask — even if she makes you feel totally relaxed.
But if you’re going to a “small business organization” conference and the nice bookkeeper who helps you prepare the church income tax expresses an interest, she will most likely be the perfect guest to take.
Having someone supportive and professionally savvy with you helps defuse shyness – and you can introduce each other to key people you know will be good contacts.
18. Set Personal Goals For The Network Event
This is different from your main goal in attending a networking event.
Set personal goals no one but you will ever know about for the event itself.
For example, if you’re “bad with names”, plan to learn and remember the names of six people.
These goals should be unique to you and designed to help get you past blocks:
For example, plan to get contact information from five people if you are shy about asking for business cards or email addresses.
Or plan to simply talk to three people during each break.
When you are focused on meeting a goal, you are more likely to push yourself.
That’s when you’ll meet your goals.
There is no one goal-setting strategy that is perfect for everyone—but there are many goal-setting strategies that are perfect for just one person.
19. Organize A Networking Event Yourself
One of the best ways to defuse fear of events lies in organizing one yourself.
- Find out everything you can about organizing a successful event
- Decide what type would best suit (a) your intended audience (b) you
- Hire an experienced assistant – or recruit an experienced volunteer
- Find an industry peer to co-host it with you. (But if you’re not experienced, don’t expect her to do all the work!)
- Keep it as simple as possible.
Once you’ve actually run an event (and taken care of the zillion and one details and weird glitches – and overcome these) you will never feel quite as intimidated or bored with an event again.
You’ll find you have lots to talk about – and you know what makes attendees happy and what annoys them.
That’s valuable experience to bring to your next networking event.
20. Give Referrals
So that interesting-looking guy with what you thought was a graphic designer’s portfolio turned out to be an architect.
Don’t give up on him – grab him and introduce him to the woman you were just talking to: The one who needed floor plans.
Be generous when referring contacts to each other.
Go out of your way to suggest or introduce the right connection.
Share leads with fellow professionals.
This might seem counter-productive, but seriously, if you want people to refer you, be the rock star who solved their problem and magically produced the right referral.
21. Follow Up
Don’t just connect with people: Look for opportunities to help them.
Do you have a template back at your home office that would solve your new contact’s problem that she is telling you about?
Is there a link you can share to a resource?
Promise to send whatever it is that you’ve told your new contact about, if she is receptive: Then be sure to follow up when you get home and send it straight away (within twenty-four hours is the norm – and what people will look for).
(Hint: Having something valuable you can send or share is a natural way to get your new contact’s email address.)
And don’t just make follow-up a one-time thing either: If your new contact lives in the same city, invite her out for lunch a few times a year, or meet for cappuccino. Let her know about other events you think she might like. Tip her off on deals in your industry.
And if she lives out of town and you hear she’s going to visit, put her up at your house if the two of you have really hit it off.
If the connection is not quite strong enough for that, arrange to have breakfast or lunch. (These meals are less formal than supper – and not so expensive, if you’re on a budget.)
Bonus Networking Tip
While it’s great to push yourself a little to meet goals such as “talk to at least three people before the workshop begins”, keep it organic.
Keep it natural.
Being prepared is the non-organic part of preparing for networking events.
If you’re prepared, you are in the perfect position to look for opportunities where you can naturally step in – and rock your networking event.
Let me know in the comments which tip(s) you like and going to incorporate into your next networking event? Or if you have some ideas that was not mentioned, please share with us.