When it comes to networking, business cards are only a small part of the process. Networking is an art form which, once perfected, can not only build your credibility but improve your business or propel your career forward. Let us help you improve on your networking etiquette and results:
Let’s start with the basics.
- Notice your appearance: make sure your attire is clean and neat, check that remnants from your last meal aren’t stuck between your teeth, or that you don’t have chipped fingernail polish.
Reason: your appearance is an extension of who you are, and how you present yourself impacts how people perceive you.
- Eat before you leave for the networking event.
Reason: even if food is offered remember, you are not there to eat but to meet people. You do not want your stomach demanding the sandwich buffet when you’re trying to talk to someone; plus, having your hands full of food does not necessarily allow you to make the best “first impression”.
- Do your homework:
- Contact the Event Planner prior to the event or research who has RSVPed; can you get the attendee list?
- Look up the attendees on LinkedIn or Facebook to get more information about the people you might meet; no need to go crazy, but have a general understanding of a few key people.
- Identify a few people you want to meet beforehand and reach out to them; express your interest in meeting them at the event and provide your cell number in case something comes up last minute.
- Stay up-to-date on current and local events. For example, that Francona is no longer the Manager of the Red Sox and that there is a “tent city” on the Rose Kennedy Green-way.
Reason: so many people refrain from learning about their audiences prior to meeting them, yet this extra effort often makes all the difference and can advance a conversation from the get-go. Make a habit of knowing your target audience it will pay dividends.
- Making Introductions:
- Put your name tag on your right side – most people are right-handed and will see your name immediately when they shake your hand.
- Shake hands firmly and make eye contact - people are more likely to take you seriously.
- “Open the card before you open the present.” - ask about the other person first before talking about yourself.
- It’s not all about business – asking how people are or what movies they have seen lately, breaks the ice and helps build rapport.
- Refrain from looking around the room while you’re speaking with someone - listen and focus your attention on the person to which you are speaking.
Reason: yes, you are there to pitch you or your company but you are also there to gather information. Refrain from identifying someone as your “anchor” just so you can scope out the scene. Instead, treat him/her as your center of attention; you never know who might be able to assist you down the road.
The fortune is in the follow-up.
After speaking with each person, be specific about following up with them: Account Executive, Laurisa Neuwirth suggests asking, “It was nice to meet you, I will follow-up with you and start by connecting on LinkedIn.” People appreciate when you take the initiative and are often pleasantly surprised by prompt follow-through.
Above any other tip we can offer you: be genuine. Yes, the purpose is to promote your business and/or your career, but it takes time to build a strong level of rapport with someone. Walking away with 5-6 contacts who will remember you is far better than giving out 10-20-30 of your business cards to people who will have forgotten you as soon as you have moved on.
Share your thoughts on networking and tell us what has been successful or otherwise for you!