Why am I thinking about networking on a Friday?
The idea for the blog popped into my head about a week and a half ago (consequently, the same time my friend Kristin Hardwick came up with some genius networking tips of her own to share on social media for the local CoWorking space she is opening). As I sit down to write this, I am taking stock of the upcoming week and month and paying attention to the networking opportunities coming down the pike. There sure are a lot! I polled a group of local entrepreneur’s to get their take on what the best networking advice is and I whittled it down to my top five. Surprisingly, no one had advice on brushing your teeth or coming across with a strong handshake, but those are perhaps a little too obvious :)
RESEARCH prior to going. How many people will be there? It is a sit-down situation or mix and mingle. Ideally you want to have enough business cards for however you will be connecting with. This means, if you are attending a roundtable or BNI-style event, you will want one for every person in the room. If you’re attending a Business After Hours type event, you may want enough to connect with about 10-20% of the people in the room. Bonus points if you research at least one person who you know is attending and get the scoop on them and their business before even stepping foot into the door!
BRING A WINGMAN or WINGWOMAN: This person can help you break into the crowd, scout out great connections for you, and make more impact by helping introduce you to the right people. They can also shower you with their accolades when introducing you (in a way you can’t always do for yourself) and of course… you can rescue each other from bad conversations.
BRING A SMILE and a GOOD ATTITUDE: In networking, positivity is the key! No one wants to hear about how stressed you are, how busy your day was, or about something gloomy or sad. Steer clear of potentially sensitive topics and stay upbeat and positive! People won’t want to interact with you if you’re a “negative Nancy” so stay energetic and SMILE whenever you can.
GET DEEPER and CONNECT: You definitely want to stay professional, but asking deeper questions about their business, why they chose to do what they do, and what makes them passionate about their work are great alternatives to the normal small talk. Listening, being authentic and genuinely caring how you can help them are the biggest gifts you can give someone. Ask them the right questions and you will make a lasting impact!
FOLLOW UP: Be sure to follow up with people you met and wish to collaborate with further. Don’t let their business cards just sit in your wallet for months —send an email or personal note the next day if you can! One wise entrepreneur friend of mine recommends setting aside an hour in your day the following day to followup and connect with those you met at the prior event.