I firmly believe that only you can change yourself today. And for many of us, part of that change may include expanding our business networks. But mention networking and people often freeze – even though there are some tried and true ways to make networking the nuts and bolts of your success.
Here are a few tips on how to maximize your time at a networking event:
- Start a conversation: Yes, that seems obvious, but there are some techniques that will make this easier. First, introduce yourself – and there’s a better way to do this than most people use. State your name with impact; what I call the “Pause, Part, Punch” approach. When stating your name, pause before your first name, then state your first name, pausing again before your last name (part), and then give your last name with a bit of a punch. You want to really drive your last name into their memory.
- Use conversation links and build a relationship: Use the person’s name two or three times and picture their name on a desk nameplate. Allow the conversation to flow by asking questions that link to new questions. Ask the “who, what, where, when, why and how” questions – such as where they live, their family, their work, hobbies and interests. People like to talk about themselves, so show genuine interest, listen to what they say and remember it.
- Capture information: As you work on building rapport with the person you’ve met, usually in a three- to five-minute time frame, you want to capture their information. Maintain eye contact when you ask for their business card, and present yours to them at eye level with your name facing them.
- Set an appointment: I call this “make a decision, make a move, make a friend.” You might say, “I can see we might do business together in the future. Can I get in touch with you?” And then follow up the next day with an email meeting invitation for a conference call. Later, confirm the appointment.
- Gaining referrals: This is a matter of giving a referral and/or asking for one. If the person you’ve met isn’t a good fit for your business, ask who in the room would be their perfect client and then make the introduction. You always want to make more referrals than you ask for.
- Use social media: Networking doesn’t end when the meeting is over. LinkedIn, for example, is a great way to stay in touch with your business contacts.
So, as you can see, networking shouldn’t scare you. If you walk into an event with the right tools and confidence, you can leave with friends, business references and potential customers.
Robert Graves is a director of business performance improvement for Dale Carnegie Tampa Bay. He can be contacted at Robert.Graves@DaleCarnegie.com.