Networking tips: 10(plus) ways to make the most of it
As a professional, maybe meeting other people in the business community is your very reason for being, or (more likely) you’re one of those that breaks out into a cold sweat and/or hives upon simply hearing the term “networking.” We asked our VP of Membership Sunny Cearley for some tips, so if you tend more toward the latter, don’t worry--this short guide is just for you!
1. Make time for it
Half of the battle simply comes down to making networking a priority. Put networking events on your calendar, and make it a part of your day to be there. And give yourself plenty of time to be fully present and engaged at the event – try not to schedule too many other items around it and give yourself a chance to relax and be yourself.
Get some more great tips from some of our most experienced Chamber member networkers in this video! Special thanks to Chamber member and SchmoozaPalooza video sponsor NextThought, https://www.nextthought.com/, for their great work on this piece.
2. Be strategic
You can’t be everywhere! Part of making time for events will also necessarily probably mean that you need to choose the events that are more likely to be the most valuable use of your time. Think: where do I need to be where everyone else is? And also, where can I be where nobody else is?
3. Do what you like
You’ll be a better networker at events you actually enjoy. Try to look for formats that suit your personality, causes that are important to you, and for fun people to be around.
4. Find ONE person to talk to
Everyone wants to talk to “the life of the party,” and there’s good reason for that. But think about speaking with someone who looks like the loneliest person in the room. Look for groups that seem to be having fun, or go pay someone a compliment to get the conversation started.
5. Take your business cards
You have business cards, now use them! Hand them out, and ask for cards in return. A good strategy for follow up is to send an email within 24 hours–and think about connecting on social media (especially LinkedIn).
6. Be real
People can tell if you’re being fake. Be genuinely interested in other people. Conversation is part art, part science. Provide value by thinking, “how might I be able to interest or help this person?”
7. Listen more than you talk
Dovetailing on No. 6 above, come prepared to the event with open-ended questions in mind for people you may meet. Pay attention to what they’re saying–and draw quieter people into the conversation by asking them questions, too.
8. Have good breath
This can be hard depending on what type of food/drinks may be present, but no one wants to talk to someone with bad breath for long. Have a mint or chew some gum! Also, don’t forget to check yourself in the mirror. It will make you more confident, and you won’t accidentally have a conversation with someone that will only remember you because of the food stuck in your teeth.
9. Practice your handshake
Firm, but not too firm. We know what a bad handshake feels like from the other side–don’t do those things. Notice how other people that you admire shake hands. Make eye contact with the person and smile.
10. Have fun
Networking isn’t a death sentence; it’s a part of business, even in the 21st century. It’s a chance to get out, learn something new and grow your personal and professional circle. Make the most of it, and have fun!