But with all the networking groups that exist, which ones are best for you? And how can you get the most out of each mixer? The following seven networking tips will help you not only improve business but also make interesting new friends and acquaintances.
1. Explore your opportunities. Joining a variety of networking groups gives you access to the widest range of people. There are generally four types of groups: business networking groups, such as The Network of Executive Women; geographic groups, such as your local Chamber of Commerce; service groups, such as Kiwanis; and industry-specific associations. Attend a group at least three times before deciding whether it’s for you. Groups don’t have to carry the “networking” label to be great venues for building a connection. You can also consider community groups, alumni associations, affinity groups, and church organizations? Where do people in your business’ target market gather?
2. Farm, don’t hunt. Many people approach a mixer with the expectation that they’ll make a powerful connection from that event. You will find more success, however, if you view networking as a long-term process. Determine the purpose and desired outcome of your networking efforts. “It’s more about farming than it is about hunting,” says Dr. Ivan Misner, co-author of Masters of Networking and Founder of BNI, a well-known international business-networking group. “It’s about cultivating relationships with other people.”
3. Don’t forget your networking “tools.” Come to the mixer with updated business cards. If possible, include not only your name but what you do as well. This makes it easy for people to connect with you and remember who you are after the event. In addition, make a habit of writing notes on the back of each business card so you can personalize your follow up calls and emails.
4. Get curious. First, be genuinely interested in the people you meet. Ask questions that aren’t limited to someone’s profession. For instance: What do you uniquely bring to your industry? In what type of culture do your thrive? These types of questions open up conversation and encourage connection on a more personal level.
5. Have your “elevator speech” down cold. Have a clear and concise explanation of what you do and how it may benefit others. What problem do you solve for your target audience? Be able to clearly articulate this without people’s eyes glazing over.
6. Offer referrals whenever possible. Often, those who gain the most at networking events are those who give the most. Focus more on what you can give to others than on what you’ll receive from them. “When I walk into a room, I’m always looking at how I can benefit someone else’s life,” says Melanie Benson Strick, Director of Shared Vision Network-Los Angeles, a professional and development networking group for entrepreneurs.
7. Be scrupulous with your follow up. Meeting people is just the beginning of the relationship. It is the follow up that transforms connections into relationships. The first contact is not the place for a sales pitch. Instead, follow up within 48 hours with material that will help the person. “You don’t build trust when the first thing you do is ask someone to buy your product and service,” Misner says. The key, really, is to build and nurture a relationship. It isimportant to be genuine and show that you desire to help others.
Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications
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Angela Joyner is a leadership expert, coach and national speaker. She founded The Wonder Loft, LLC coaching practice for women. Angela is devoted to teaching women around the world how to authentically navigate the corporate environment, lead with confidence and get promoted at work. Through private coaching, workshops, and signature talks, Angela shows women (and a few good men) how to create a powerful leadership brand and an abundant life they love.