Being a part of a growing organization certainly has its perks and pitfalls. One objective that comes with actively contributing the to growth of the company is networking, and it can be viewed as a perk or a pitfall. I've been doing some research on best practices to make sure that I am making my efforts worthwhile and thought why not share some of my collective tips with my closest friends! Take them as you may and let me know what experiences you have had in networking for yourself and your business.
Let's take both sides of the coin in each situation....
Do - Have business cards, and an ample amount. If you are expecting to meet 50 people, bring 100 cards.
Don't - Expect people to remember or write down your contact information. Another related don't, don't forget to collect their card as well. You don't want to be stuck "hoping he'll call first".
Do - Make notes on the back of business cards you collect with key points that will help you remember the person the next day.
Don't - Give out a card to everyone and anyone. Consider those who you might actually do business with, but keep in mind that while they may not be a prospect today, they may be tomorrow.
Do - Mingle, mingle, mingle. Ok, so this is not speed dating, but you should try to work the room a bit so you interact with several people throughout the event.
Don't - Spend all night talking to one person, you will likely miss out on some other great connections.
Do - Sit with a table full of strangers. You are here to meet people so put yourself in a position that will encourage you to do so.
Don't - Be joined at the hip with a colleague or friend, you are not at work or at the club so you do not need a wing man or woman. In fact, go to these events alone, it will further push you to meet new people.
Do - Practice and use a well structured, memorable elevator pitch. You want people to remember you and your business so build in key factors that make your business unique and stand out from the rest of the crowd.
Don't - Make yourself the focus, professionally (unless you are an independent professional) or personally. You are not there to talk about your new puppy or the great date you had last week, keep the topic on work while keeping the conversation light and engaging.
Do - Give a firm handshake, the handshake is the entrance to that first impression. Make sure its strong but not overwhelming (or sweaty, no one likes a sweaty handshake!).
Don't - Be overzealous in your approach. You don't want to scare them away before you even start the conversation.
Do - Eat and drink in moderation. This is not a wedding with an open bar, be mindful that you need to speak with people, with eloquence and nothing in your teeth.
Don't - Get drunk! One of the biggest don'ts in networking is having one too many and leaving a sour taste in people's mouths. Save your table dancing for Spring Break in Cancun.
Do - Prepare questions that will clearly and concisely get you the right information to gauge the connection quickly. No use wasting an hour talking to someone, albeit interesting, but who has no connection with your business type.
Don't - Forget to follow up. Email, call, connect with them in some way with a few days while the conversations are still fresh.
Finally, Do - Keep in regular communication with your new connections, even a few times a year, to see what they are up to.
Don't - Forget to nurture your current network. Develop some type of cycle to ensure you have routine check ins with all of your key connections.
I hope this collection of tips is helpful, there are many more, but I can only hold your attention for so long. Again, I'd love to hear your stories about networking gone right or terribly wrong so please feel free to comment below.