Networking is an essential business tool that should not be overlooked. It helps to favor luck and opportunities by multiplying encounters and creating around you a space of possibilities. Use of influence strategies and contacts is one of the important entrepreneurial skills; sometimes, it is more “know-who” that helps rather than the “know-how”!
However, most of the time, people are afraid of networking because of the unknown – what will the person who you are talking to do, or say? Of course small talk with strangers isn’t always easy, however, following few simple rules can make networking work your way. So the solution is simple, and below are few tips to ace your networking moment:
- Want to get to know others? Start by knowing who you are! Craft a 20 second intro pitch about yourself, your context, your passion, and practice it until it sounds like a natural expression of who you are and what you are about.
- Know who you want to meet and why. Check who will be attending (check materials, ask friends, go through member lists, etc). Keep track of why you are looking for people.
- Buddy up. Check around to find a friend or associate (customer, supplier, banker, colleague, etc) who knows the place and the people better than you. Ask if you can go with that person; work in pairs if necessary.
- Learn to introduce others, valorize, highlight, match achievements and interests. Successful people are great introducers!
- Bone up on small talk. What do you say after hello? A good place to start is your personal spot, then close with why you were looking forward to meeting the person. If you think your business can help the person, talk about that. If the other person wants to limit the conversation to small talk, go with that for a moment. Make sure you have read international and local news on the day. Be an interesting person to be with.
- Do not forget why you’re here: you’re working! People tend to gather in groups of mind like folks. If you are starting to feel comfortable, make sure it’s not because you have stopped networking!
- Make the connection. The key to making networking work is to make the personal connection. Don’t be shy, entrepreneurs expect to be contacted. Just walk up and say hello. Ideally ask a friend or the organizer to introduce you. And, remember, become, yourself, a great “introducer”.
- Make meeting you unforgettable. It’s about USP (Unique Selling Proposition). But humbly so, please. Find your style.
- Follow up. Brief contact right after, with a “plus”. Then periodically, on issues that interest the target. Build up a capital before needing to use it.
So prepare your business cards and go get’em! Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression!