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Networking events are not business-related activities that everyone likes. In fact, according to a survey used by the Chamber of Commerce only two out of 10 people actually enjoy these events.
However, networking, as many successful people in business know, is crucial to building good customer relationships and generating new opportunities.
Having and making good connections makes growing your business so much easier.
Some of the best ways to meet people who can help with this growth is by taking advantage of after-hours business mixers put on by the Chamber of Commerce, lunches or breakfasts organized by industry groups and the myriad social functions associated with economic development, trade shows, seminars, conferences and fundraisers.
Simply attending networking events is fine, but to get the most out of them requires an ability to have a plan or specific objective in mind. You also need to make sure you choose the “right” events to attend and above all be prepared to engage people in meaningful conversation.
Making contacts at these events is all about quality not quantity. You are not there to gather as many business cards as you can.
Remember, part of making contacts is your ability to follow up.
How can you possibly follow up in a timely manner and meaningful way on the 50 cards you collected? If you’ve had a good conversation with three or four people and agree to meet again within a short time frame, then you’ve had a successful event.
Networking when done right can often generate the bulk of your business. And doing it right requires you to follow a few simple rules.
The first rule is to be genuine. Networking is about building relationships. Be prepared to do as much listening as you do talking. Remember you are, in a conversation and should be there to create a rapport with someone who may become a potential customer or advocate for you.
One of the reasons why people go to these events is to search out someone who can help them better their business. They are not there necessarily to buy something.
When you do meet someone, you should think in terms of how you can help them. What kind of advice or solution can you provide that will open the door for future conversation?
Networking events are not the place for making the big sales pitch and closing the sale.
Think of the times when you have been at an event and someone is there pressuring you to buy something. Chances are you are trying to get away from this person and at the next event doing your best to avoid them.
The people who get the most out of a networking event ask engaging questions, keep the conversation casual and make an effort to get to know the person. It is best to get to understand the other person’s needs before you start talking about what you have to offer.
Networking events can be stressful, especially when you walk into a room filled with 100 people. One trick is to get there early so that you can meet people as they arrive and before they start forming their own groups which may be hard to break into.
There is a wealth of information out there that focuses on how to successfully work your way through networking events.
It is in your best interests to get to know the dos and don’ts of networking along with the tips and tricks that will make the experience less stressful and more joyful.
Those who know how to network properly will tell you that there is a direct correlation to the amount of time you spend networking and how successful you will be in business.
The bottom line on networking is that it is all about making connections and building friendships. It is about finding common interests, sharing ideas and looking for ways that you can work together and encouraging referrals. If you think of networking in those terms, these events then become worthwhile activities that will contribute to your success.
Joe Smith is a communications consultant and an accomplished fine artist. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his art website at www.joesmith.ca