Think back at the last networking event you attended. Were you nervous about joining an exciting conversation? Did you prefer to spend most of the event all by yourself? If you have ever experienced a sense of dread at any event, you are not alone. Networking is challenging for many people. However, the benefits outweigh the downsides. As a business consultant and seasoned speaker, I have built credible relationships and collaborated with people I met at events. Many people have also gotten hired at different events. Interestingly, most people think networking is all about exchanging business cards. However, networking is often more about engaging with people you meet at events.
Here is a four-step guide to effective networking to help get you started:
#1 Introduce yourself: An introduction is important because it creates people's first impression of you. When you meet someone for the first time, speak up, make eye contact, avoid filler words, and speak confidently. If you would like to join an ongoing conversation, be polite and direct. Try phrases like, “Do you mind if I join you?” You can also ask the people in groups questions like, “What brought you here tonight?”, “How long have you known each other?”
#2 Make a connection: Ensure that you find similarities that you share with people. Connections such as same alumni, fellowship, business industry, and others can help you create a deeper connection with people. You can make a great connection during the introduction.
#3 Ask questions: While there is no blanket guide to asking questions at an event, you must understand that you cannot ask hundreds of questions from someone. Too many questions bore people. Rather than asking several boring questions, think about asking an intelligent question about the other person.
I have heard so much about you, and I love your passion. Why are you so fascinated by this industry? Why do you find this country a great place to invest?
You can continue the conversation based on their responses.
#4 Explain what you do: A sales pitch about yourself can lead to a multi-dollar contract. That is how important introducing yourself is. Avoid all industry jargon and describe the value you add. Ensure that you keep your business pitch concise and convincing.
#5 Exit honorably: Whenever you need to exit yourself from a conversation, do so gracefully. If the conversation went well, you can exchange business cards and make a plan to keep in touch after the event. If it didn’t go well, you have to understand that you can’t connect with everyone.
One of the secrets to networking at events is building lasting relationships instead of focusing on your immediate business need.
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