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Working the Room: Networking at Meetings and Events

by Cathie Izor

Do you attend business events or meetings where you would like to promote your business one-on-one with other attendees? Are you unsure of the best way to do this or would you like to improve your technique? Here are suggestions to make the best use of your networking time at these events.

  • Choose the right event and/or group. What is the purpose of the meeting/event? What do you want from networking? Which groups have the right people for you to talk to? Do they have potential for new customers or clients?
  • Set goals for the event/meeting. Examples are the number of new people you want to meet or the number of potential buyers.
  • Get networking supplies: business cards, pen and paper. Keep them handy. Put your cards in one pocket and keep the new ones in another.
  • Prepare a basic self-introduction. Most important – Smile and say hello. Adjust your introduction for the event. IT MUST SOUND NATURAL AND SPONTANEOUS! Establish rapport and give the other person more than one way to respond to your opening.
  • At the event, meet and greet people. Be friendly. BREATHE! Look for loners and approach them. Get away from the walls and don’t sit down! Pretend you are the host of the event and you need to greet people to make them feel welcome.
  • Names: Speak your name clearly and slowly. Learn the other person’s name.
  • Have your small talk ready. If you give a compliment, it must be sincere. When you first meet a new person, avoid family, pets, health and controversial topics such as politics. Networking is different from socializing.
  • Show interest and a helpful attitude. “What’s your business?  “How did you get started in…” “Who is a good business prospect for you?” HELP THEM now or later. That’s how to build relationships!
  • Exchange contact information. Offer your business card. Ask for theirs. Write notes on their business card to help you remember them. Or, jot down something you want to find out for them so you can follow-up later. Don’t just hand out cards to everyone who walks in the door. Make the friendly contact first.
  • Exit gracefully. You both need to move on so you can meet new people. However, don’t abandon your new friend. Introduce her/him to other people you know. What do they have in common? Then, drift away, meet another new person and keep the chain of relationships going.
  • Stay in touch afterwards. What’s an appropriate follow-up? You may have established a reason in your conversation. Send a brochure and note. Build the relationship.
  • Add new contacts to a tracking system. Take notes, especially on interests, expertise or needs they have.

Source: January 2007 WESO program presented by Cathie Izor

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