You’ve had a long, busy day, but you’re off to a networking event. Because that’s what entrepreneurs and professionals do. You meet up with some connections, chit-chat with some new folks, nibble on hors d’oeuvres – or dinner, if it’s a particularly good event – and then you call it a night. Maybe you had fun. Maybe you were counting down the minutes until you could leave. Maybe you walked away with fresh ideas and perspective, actionable advice, some leads, a referral or two, and a confidence boost… but… probably not.
Sound familiar? How do you make the most of networking events, enjoy them, and leverage them to meet key goals? We have some ideas.
5 Networking Tips for Results that Are More Satisfying than the Hors d’oeuvres
Ready to network like a boss? Put these tips into action:
1. Look at Networking with a Work Mindset
Do you squeeze networking events in as your schedule allows? Do you consider it a task that is, at the end of the day, optional? Well… you may want to shift your mindset. Consider that:
- 85% of jobs are filled through networking
- Just about 100% of people say face-to-face networking is more valuable than online networking
- 72% of people say appearance and a handshake directly impact their impressions of a person
- 25% of professionals do not network at all, and 41% of those who do would like to network more but don’t have time
When you make networking a “must-do” rather than a “would-be-good-to-do-if-I-have-time,” you can get a leg up on the competition. These events are opportunities to meet with existing and new contacts and grow your business.
2. Establish Goals
What do you want to achieve when you go to a networking event? Don’t be vague: set a few goals. For example:
- I will meet X new people
- I will reconnect with X existing contacts
- I will set X appointments
- I will collect X business cards
If you know where you want to go, you have a much better shot at getting there!
3. Fly Solo
While more comfortable, it can be detrimental to attend a networking event with someone you know. You end up speaking mostly with each other, and there’s no reason to break out of your comfort zone. The point of networking is to nurture relationships and forge new ones. Otherwise, where is the growth potential? Income is directly related to the size of your network, so expand it.
And remember, you are 58% more likely to get a job (or client) through acquaintances than friends. So-called “weak ties” (i.e. connections that you don’t know well but with whom you are acquainted) are a much richer source of information, job opportunities – and other connections.
If you’re not a natural networker, you’re not alone. Just like any other aspect of your work, it takes practice and effort. Have a list of conversation starters in mind: What do you do? What made you pursue that line of work? What do you love about it? What brought you here tonight? Do you work on a team? Do you know John Smith or Jane Jones (see if you have connections in common).
Listen to the answers, find common ground, and explore that. You’re not grilling them; it’s a friendly chat – and people typically enjoy talking about themselves! Just make sure that if you are being asked questions, you reciprocate. Don’t hog the conversation.
4. Collect Cards
Don’t hand out cards to people who do not ask for them. They’ll lose them, or worse, just throw them away. When you meet with someone with whom you could have a mutually beneficial relationship, get their cards. This puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to follow-up. Of course, have some of your cards on hand to give out when requested.
You met some great new connections and chatted with existing acquaintances. Wonderful! But if you do not follow-up, you may as well have stayed home and binge-watched Netflix. Have a plan to follow up. You might connect on social media, add them to a CRM drip email campaign, text them, send a card, forward a great article from your blog on a topic of interest to them, etc. Request an appointment, and take it from there.
Finally, have fun! Yes, it is a work-related event, but the key is to be yourself, be personable, and find people that you connect with both professionally and personally. Authenticity is the secret to successful networking.
Networking puts you in touch with other home improvement professionals, and you can draw on each other’s knowledge, expertise, and connections. It benefits everyone. This is the heart of Home Artisans of Indiana: we build better businesses together. Start building your network here.