At Baker Public Relations, we are no stranger to networking events. From Chamber functions to charity events, our team is active in the community to better serve our clients, open valuable doors and meet new potential leads. Networking can provide you with the right “in,” while offering opportunities to market yourself and your company, and even help you find valuable mentors (or become one). It can also help you figure out ways to land that client or job you’ve been dreaming of.
One of the most important parts of networking is building relationships. Wouldn’t you rather do business with people you like and trust? Relationships are at the heart of any successful business. When you invest time into making and maintaining connections, you’re likely to reap the rewards over time. So ask questions, shift the focus from you to them and be a good listener.
Here are a few pointers to get the best out of your networking efforts:
BEFORE THE EVENT
Try not to over commit.
- Determine what events are right for you and what will benefit you and your organization the most.
- Choose wisely to maximize your time and plan well in advance.
Develop a game plan.
- Set reasonable expectations in advance of a networking event. Are you here to meet three new people? Do you want to learn more about the organization that is hosting?
- Keep in mind, arriving early lets you keep an eye out for familiar faces, or those who you know you want to meet.
AT THE EVENT
Begin a meaningful dialogue.
- Find a personal connection. Ask them about what they do, where they grew up, etc. Don’t rattle off your elevator speech unless someone asks you specifically about what you do.
Continue the connection.
- Once you get to know people and truly listen, make it a point to connect people who you feel have genuine value. Go out of your way to make potentially promising connections. Share important information and don’t hesitate to share your contacts and resources with your new relationships.
AFTER THE EVENT
Connect on social media.
- LinkedIn is a great platform for people to connect and expand your network, but don’t connect the generic way. Send that person a personalized note. The same goes for Facebook and Twitter.
Share useful content.
- This is especially helpful if you discussed a specific topic or challenge with someone you just met. Share articles, blogs, videos and infographics that might be worth their while. Useful content can help build the relationship and demonstrates genuine interest.
Organize your business cards.
- Don’t leave them to gather dust on your desk. Scan them or enter them into your address book, iPhone, PC, tablet, etc.
If you don’t get what you want out of a certain networking event, don’t let that put you off from trying again. The more events you attend, the better you’ll get at it. As Maya Angelou once said, “All great achievements require time.”