Over a decade ago, I started a networking group to bring together my friends and their friends to get to know each other and discuss relevant topics in our community. Little did I know at the time that this network would flourish with new business partnerships. Over the years, I’ve participated in hundreds of networking events as well as had the chance to observe other people networking at our events. Each time, seven habits have remained the same for those who build successful relationships and new business opportunities.
1.Set a goal – It’s unrealistic to walk into an event and expect to have a conversation with everyone in the room. Instead, set a goal to have meaningful conversations with at least five (5) new people in the room.
2.Stand near the entrance – Standing at the beginning of the room allows you to make eye contact with everyone who enters the event and also have the first chance to speak with him or her. Your first, first impression sets the tone of who you are as you begin to mingle in the room.
3. Always carry business cards – Never leave home without them. Even in our highly digital world business cards are still effective tools for creating lasting first impressions. Rather than fumbling around trying to put your new contact’s name and number into your phone or scribbling his/her information onto a piece of paper, the quick exchange of the business cards keeps the conversation moving without an interruption.
4. Make small talk – Keep it causally professional. Stay informed about what is happening within your industry and in the news to get the conversation started. Also, recognizing a common connection like a previous experience or mutual friend helps to move the conversation along.
5. Be a connector and introducer – People will remember who made an introduction or connected them with the right resources. And when the time comes, they will be able to reciprocate the favor.
6. Listen attentively – Networking is two-way street. While it’s important to give a proud introduction about yourself, it’s just as important to look and act engaged in the other person’s introduction. Offer advice or insight about what he/she is discussing. If the opportunity presents itself, suggest that there may be a mutually beneficial opportunity to work together in the near future.
7. Follow up after the event – After the event, the first thing to do is connect to your new contacts on LinkedIn. This is a great chance to keep your face and name at the top of mind for a few more days. Also, send a follow up email to schedule a time for a phone call or coffee meeting to continue your conversation.