Going to a networking event is almost like going on a first date. You over-analyze your outfit, you repeat what you have to say, and you worry about uncomfortable breaks.
The good news is that you can practice these network-related meetings and with a little experience and training, you will soon become a professional at networking.
1. BASIC RULES
It should be quite a given, but it never hurts to be repeated: smile, be positive and friendly, but do not overdo it. Ask open questions, listen carefully, and show genuine interest by asking follow-up questions.
2. EARLY BIRDS CALLS THE CONTACTS
Among friends and family it is quite common, and accepted, to be a little late, but in networking it is just the opposite. The advantage of getting there early is that there are smaller people there so you don’t have to get into conversations. Networks are good at setting aside time and energy to talk to each other.
3. MAKE A PLAN
Few people list networking as their favorite activity. To increase motivation, I recommend that you set a goal with your networking. The goal could be, for example, talking to 10 people or being at the event for one hour.
We humans are quite self-absorbed and therefore like people who listen to what we tell. An easy trick to remember details, stories and anecdotes is to take notes.
5. FOLLOW UP
Networkers should follow the one-day rule. Follow up your new contacts within 24 hours (max 48 hours) – emails are a quick and easy way to follow up. Get some extra points by referring to a story, article or anecdote that you discussed last time you saw (that you wrote down).
6. BE PERSONAL
It can be difficult to capture someone’s interest in an email – sometimes it is easier to meet in reality. After a nice first meeting, suggest a coffee, coffee or lunch. Just make sure the meeting has a purpose. After all, time is money.
7. SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media is a perfect tool for networking. Use social media to do research both before and after the event.
8. BE PATIENT
Networking is about giving and taking. It’s not just about you and your future career. It’s also about doing others a favor. For example, you can help others by introducing them to someone you know.
9. QUALITY FOR QUANTITY
A valuable contact is worth more than 20 superficial. Anyway, you’ll probably need 20 superficial ones to find a valuable one (just like when you’re dating).
10. CARE YOUR NETWORK
After you mingle and collect an impressive number of business cards and create new contacts, you need to nurture your network and make sure your new contacts remember you. Have you considered booking a coffee? Dare to take the first step and do it now!