Tips to Conduct Effective Business Networking

Business NetworkingFor many, networking at a business function is typically the last thing in the world they want to be doing. The awkward conversations, the cliques, people hovering around the appetizers. Some may feel that they have nothing of value to contribute to the event and may become situationally uncomfortable.

While some may dread having to attend such events, networking is vital to success in the business world. Laura Katz, a business consultant for the Athens Small Business Development Center, has revealed the following 10 tips for effective business networking that should make even the least outgoing person a networking pro.

  • Dress For Success. This is one of the biggest reasons that many people feel out of place at networking functions. Be sure to be dressed appropriately for every occasion.
  • Always Come Prepared. Arm yourself with plenty of business cards, flyers or pamphlets with information about your company, and a pen and paper so that you can make note of the other people with whom you come in contact.
  • Be Extra Punctual. Don’t just be on time, make sure you arrive early to a networking event. Normally, the host will come greet you, and when they do, politely let them know that you don’t know anyone at the event so that they can introduce you to people. This will allow you to become more comfortable with your surroundings and become acquainted with the other guests.
  • Be Gracious. Be conscious of the group of people that you are addressing. Not everyone wants to be approached and you should be aware of this. If two people are standing closely together, face to face, and talking, then they are more than likely having a private conversation and do not want to be interrupted. If a person is in a more open stance, enter the open space, make eye contact, and wait for a break in the conversation before introducing yourself.
  • Not Everything is About You. People love to talk about themselves. When you meet someone, be sure to ask open ended questions about them and their business, and always show an interest in their response. If you find that you have something to add to the conversation after hearing what they have to say, be sure to contribute! This is all about building a relationship and finding a connection with others in your business community.
  • Make Conversation Easy. Most people at networking events are shy and hesitant to strike up conversation with others. Take this opportunity to approach those standing by themselves and start a dialogue. By doing this, you can actually help them become more personable, while showing how outgoing you can be!
  • Create Connections. Introduce those you know to others. By connecting them together, you are facilitating the networking process. This will show that you are a good networker and someone that is a great asset at these events.
  • Mingle. It’s tempting to make a beeline right for potential clients. Isn’t that what business networking is all about? Not really. Be sure to talk to a variety of people, including your competition. It’s important to cultivate relationships outside of your usual circle. Keep in mind the law of six degrees of separation at networking events.
  • Make a Graceful Exit. When preparing to walk away from someone, be genteel. Be sure to shake their hand and say something like, “It was wonderful spending some time to get to know you.” If you genuinely cultivated a strong relationship with the person and would like to meet again, you might say something like, “let’s get together for coffee and discuss things further.” Exchange contact information, then politely move on.
  • Follow Up. And Be Intentional About It. If you made a great connection with someone or were able to offer your assistance or services, be intentional about getting back in touch with them. Always follow up promptly within two to three days with a call or email, and provide any requested information or set up a time to meet again!

There’s definitely an art to networking and cultivating relationships. However the best thing you can do is dive right in. Don’t be shy, share all of the knowledge you have, and walk away with new contacts for your business.