To be successful in the business world, you must network.
But there’s nothing scarier than walking into a room full of strangers and introducing yourself. I can feel my hands get clammy and my stomach drop now. How about you?
As the Southeast’s TASTE OF WICT comes to your neck of the woods, I found a few valuable tips to put you at ease and increase your networking circle.
- RESIST THE URGE TO ARRIVE LATE OR LEAVE EARLY
Entrepreneur magazine says that while this may sound counter-productive, showing up early is a better strategy than arriving late. When you arrive early, you will notice it’s less hectic because people haven’t had a chance to group together. In other words, it’s easier to find a conversation partner.
And just because the event comes to a close, doesn’t mean you have to go home. If there’s an after-party, gather a few people and go together. Or if there’s nothing planned, take action and invite people to continue the conversation over drinks or dinner.
- LEAVE THE HARD SELL AT HOME
Networking is all about building relationships. So, be yourself. It’s not about shoving your business cards in people’s faces and doing a hard sales pitch. Keep your conversations, light, fun and casual. So, get talking, make the conversation interesting and leave people wanting more. After all, people are more apt to do future business or partner with you when they enjoy your company.
- SAY CHEESE.
I know, this sounds like something your mother would tell you- but remember to smile. It’s so simple, yet many of us often overlook it. And when you smile, you come across as warm and inviting; plus, it helps to put you at ease. So, walk into the room with those pearly whites shining and ready to conquer the world. Definitely, check that frown at the door.
- FOCUS ON QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY
Instead of trying to get your business card in as many hands as possible, focus on the quality of your connections. When you first meet them, figure out if there is a chance for a mutual benefit. If there’s not, you might want to move on. It helps to know your networking goals before you get to the event so you can target those who can help you. But networking is a two-way street. So, uncover their needs. Ask your contact about their goals and aspirations and figure out ways you can help them.
- FOLLOW UP. FOLLOW UP. GET A SECOND DATE.
Networking is just the start, so stay in touch. Remember to pass out your business cards and collect them at your networking event. Don’t be afraid to find out the best way to stay in connect after the event. Some people like email, some like phone, while others prefer social networks. Reach out within a couple of days to show you are interested. And don’t forget to reference something you discussed so your contact remembers you.
The key to successful networking is giving what you want to receive. If you want to increase your visibility, help people increase theirs. If you want people to stay in contact with you, stay in contact with them. Focus less on selling yourself, and more on how you can help others. Because the help you give will likely be reciprocated.
And if you would like to practice your networking skills at the Taste of WICT in Knoxville, look for me. I’ll be there. Who knows maybe we can help each other.