Becoming a networking pro doesn’t have to be rocket science, but you can pick up a few tips to get more out of your time spent working the room. If you’re attending a larger event then it’s handy to know how best to get around everyone, while smaller events allow for more time for engagement.
“The more informal and conversational the better,” advises Tom Moss, PR & marketing executive, RMS PR. “ Treat it like catching up with an old friend you’ve not seen in a while, asking them inviting questions and spark a shared interest.
“Don’t shark your way around the room like you are on a hunting mission!” he adds. “Relax, enjoy the atmosphere and company, you never know who you will end up talking to so approach everyone with an open mind.
“You aren’t going to pick up business from everyone you meet; you might even go to a networking event where everyone in the room has no direct relevance to the services you offer. However it’s always good to be on people’s radar, you never know they might talk to somebody in their circle who does need your services! If you leave a good impression you can grow your business through word of mouth from the networking event.”
Don’t treat networking as a chance to hard sell, that’s the last thing anybody wants. By all means be passionate about your business and what you’re doing, but nobody wants to be sold to and people will simply switch off. Time would be better spent trying to build genuine relationships with people.
Moss continues: “People know why everyone is at a networking event (to try and sell their services or gain new clients) however there are ways to go about achieving this without giving it the salesman pitch.”
“Don’t avoid networking because you are concerned about competitors: don’t think of them as enemies and build a solid working relationship with them,” adds Simon Monaghan, a SME consultant with Business Doctors. “You may be able to refer business to each other when you are full – this goes both ways. Perhaps you can learn from them. Do some of your competitors have a different/better business model than you?
“Use networking as an opportunity to give you distance from your own business. What trends, issues and problems are the others also experiencing? How are they dealing with them both as managers and businesses?”