Knowing how to network can open up doors and create opportunities for you and your business. Polish your networking skills and you’ll be able to identify potential collaborators, develop mutually beneficial relationships, generate leads, and expand your influence and reach.
Follow these 10 Business Networking Tips and 10 Business Networking Mistakes to Avoid and you’ll be on your way to networking success.
10 Business Networking Tips
1. Meet People Through Referrals
The best way to expand your network is through a referral from someone you know. That way, your mutual friend or acquaintance can put in a good word for you, connect you with someone compatible and truly helpful, and provide assurance that the person is trustworthy and reputable.
2. Prepare Your Elevator Speech
An elevator speech is a quick explanation of who you are and what you do. It should be so concise that you could deliver in the time it would take you to ride an elevator. Rehearse it, but don’t memorize it word for word. Adapt your ‘pitch’ depending on who you’re meeting and the environment.
3. Do Your Homework
Before a business networking event, research the people who will be there. If it’s an online event, see who has marked themselves as ‘attending’. If it’s an in-person event and you don’t have access to the list, hone in on the speakers and presenters. This way, you can better prepare what you’ll say and what you’d like to know about them.
4. Make a Good First Impression
Meet each person with a confident smile, steady eye contact, and a firm handshake. Practice at home in front of a mirror if you’re nervous or unsure of how you come across to strangers.
5. Look for Common Interests
Quickly establish something you have in common. Shared interests will build rapport much more effectively than generic small talk.
6. Ask Questions and Listen Attentively
When networking, take the focus off yourself and place it firmly on the new people you’re meeting. Don’t ask questions that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Instead, ask open-ended questions that will encourage discussion.
Practice active listening: summarize and paraphrase what they’ve said, nod your head in encouragement, and really pay attention. Remembering details about them will help you during follow-up conversations.
7. Use Social Media
Social media offers a variety of ways to network virtually. Use LinkedIn to connect with people online, while at the same time finding and attending offline networking events. Work your way towards a one-on-one meet-up, either online or in person.
8. Keep Your Online Presence Up to Date
Make sure your online presence is up to date, as people you meet will search for you afterward. This includes all social media profiles and anywhere else you can be found on the internet.
9. Be Proactive
You can make great connections by attending networking events, seeing who’s there, and meeting people by chance. But even better, decide who you want to meet and then find opportunities to connect with them.
10. Get Out There and Mix
Attend business networking events and opportunities as frequently as your schedule will allow. The more you get out there and mix, the more you’ll establish valuable connections.
10 Networking Mistakes to Avoid
1. Don’t Network Without a Plan
Clarify your goals before you get out there and network. Decide what kind of relationships you’re looking for and how you want your new contacts to benefit your business.
2. Don’t Get Nervous
Everything’s going to be fine! Get into a relaxed state of mind and be ready to have fun. You may want to practice some relaxation exercises before you go out.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
You’re there not only to make connections but to also learn about the people you’ll meet. Don’t make assumptions about who they are or what they do. Ask and listen.
4. Don’t Deliver a Boring Elevator Speech
Your elevator speech should not only tell the other person who you are and what you do but how you’re unique and why it’s beneficial to know you.
5. Don’t Stay in an Awkward Situation
If a person you meet is rude or unresponsive, don’t stick around. Move on to the next person. There’s nothing to gain by wasting time with someone who you won’t get along with.
6. Don’t Talk Too Much
You should be friendly and outgoing, but don’t dominate conversations. The best balance is to let the other person talk twice as much as you do.
7. Don’t Get Negative
Don’t complain about the snacks, badmouth other people, or say negative things about companies you’ve worked for. Sometimes people try to build rapport by having a common enemy. This is dangerous in a roomful of strangers – you don’t know who they’re connected to. Instead, focus on the constructive and positive conversation.
8. Don’t Cling to People You Know
We have a natural tendency to stick with what we know. At networking events, make sure you mix with a variety of people, not just familiar faces. Approach people who are alone and draw them into the conversation.
9. Don’t Demand Too Much from New Connections
Try to create opportunities to get in touch with new people you meet, but don’t ask too much of them at first. Focus on offering something beneficial to them instead.
10. Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Following up is the most important part of networking. If you want to nurture a relationship, call, email, or direct message them shortly after the event.