For all businesses, but particularly smaller teams and start-ups, networking is essential to building relationships and gaining opportunities to grow the business. These opportunities are more than just referrals for new customers. Networking is a popular way to share ideas and collaborate with fellow business owners. But, networking is a true art form and there are definitely some ‘do’s and don’ts’ to consider for it to be successful. Here are some tips to help you on your way to becoming a networking pro. 

Have Your Elevator Pitch Prepared

No matter where you’re networking, from conferences and tradeshows to dedicated networking events and product launches, having your elevator pitch ready to go can help you engage people and start valuable conversations. Be sure to keep your pitch brief and concise as well as accurate when you’re describing what your business does and who your audience is. The goal is to engage your listener straight away and provide a memorable introduction

Prepare Conversation Starters

Socialising with people you’ve never met before can be daunting for some people, but you want to come across as confident and charismatic. Having a few topics or conversation starters you can use to kick off an interaction can ease the anxiety you might be feeling around networking, and it makes conversations lead more naturally than just launching into talking about your business. Maybe you ask someone what they thought of a presentation that’s just taken place, how they feel about the event as a whole or how long they’ve worked in the industry. People enjoy being asked their opinion and it makes the whole conversation flow more naturally and puts everyone at ease. 

Seek Out More Opportunities To Network

Networking doesn’t have to exclusively take place in a formal setting, and there may well be opportunities to build relationships outside of the standard conference or business meeting. Often, the setting can influence how relaxed or formal an interaction feels, so if you’re conscious of this, it may be worth seeking other opportunities to create more genuine contacts. 

Meeting up at sporting events, for example, such as taking part in a round of golf can be great for making face-to-face connections with fellow business owners and encourages friendliness and a bit of healthy competition which can be great for forming friendships as well as business connections. Similarly, volunteering and charity events can be a fun and rewarding way to meet like-minded people. Increasing the range of your network as well as varying how often you network can be useful strategies to take your company’s visibility to the next level.

Don’t Lead With Your Business Card

It’s tempting to launch into a conversation with your contact details in a bid to be remembered, but there’s a time and a place for a card exchange. People don’t want to feel as though they’re just a phone number or an email address, so invest time in making those genuine connections first before you hand over your business card. Ask about their interests, their life outside of the office and what brought them to the event, and listen closely to their responses. The goal of networking is to build a rapport – only then should you ask for the other person’s business card and offer them yours. 

Be Genuine

Speak honestly about your work, your experience and your goals when you’re talking to other people. You want to ensure that you’re always authentic and that the information people can find about you online matches who they meet in person. People can be put off when they sense that someone is putting on a false persona, and it can present your business in a bad light too, so make sure that you’re being truthful to who you are and what you do. 

Don’t Forget To Follow Up

You’re not attending networking events purely to collect contact details, and while you may have received countless business cards over the course of the day, so many people fail to put in the effort to follow up. Even if people express a genuine interest in what you do or the ideas you shared, it’s all too easy for those contacts to simply languish once you return to the daily grind. So, be the exception and make the effort to put a date in the diary to follow up with people you meet and talk further. It can be beneficial to have your calendar accessible when you’re talking with someone so you can book something in straight away, or if scheduling on the day isn’t practical, make sure you follow up within the next 24 hours of meeting them so the meeting is still fresh in both of your minds. 

Don’t Be Afraid To Step Away

Not everyone you meet is going to be someone you have common ground with, and that’s just the nature of networking events. Sometimes, there won’t be those mutual connections and you won’t see eye to eye with everyone you meet. So, don’t be afraid to politely step away from a conversation if it’s looking like this is the case. Be decisive and maybe introduce them to someone else you’ve met on the day before moving on to speak with other people. 

A final note on the subject of business networking. Remember, you’re not just selling your business and services to the people you meet on the day. Every person you meet with has their own personal network too so making a good impression can help you broaden your reach even further through introductions these attendees can provide. Keep these networking tips in mind when you’re building corporate relationships to bring in better opportunities for your company.