Do's and Don'ts of networking
Following on from our article on the benefits of networking we have compiled a short list of some of the do's and don’ts of networking events.
Whilst you are ultimately going to networking events to improve and grow your business you may not see tangible benefits immediately. Be patient and create meaningful relationships, they will come to benefit you when you least expect it. Don't expect miracles to happen immediately; like anything in business building a network takes both time and effort though the rewards will come if you keep at it.
Listen to the expertise of those around you
Especially when you are new to networking it is certainly worth listening to what people say and watching what they do. There are a multitude of benefits to doing this. People are often talking about the way that they run their business; this allows you to steal their top tips to improve your business. You can also watch how people network, what works, what doesn't, and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Once you have made a connection to someone at an event it is imperative that you follow up to cement the relationship. Whilst you may have really hit it off at the event it is unlikely to materialise into anything more concrete unless you maintain contact. Though it is also important to stress that you shouldn't over do this aspect of networking otherwise you will find people stop replying to your messages.
Over promote yourself
The one thing that you really don’t want to do at networking events is over sell yourself. For starters people will be generally suspicious of people who promise the world and won't risk working with them. Not only that, they will want to avoid speaking to you at subsequent events and you will gain a bad reputation making it harder to reap the benefits of networking. Whilst people are interested in what you have to say about your business, they want to have an exchange of ideas rather than be lectured to. Allowing people to talk to you is often more beneficial than talking yourself as you can learn more about them and how they work as people.
I know this one is easier said than done but it is worth remembering that everybody is in the same boat. Lots of people at these networking events don't know anybody and is as nervous of introducing themselves as you. This can often make them easier to talk to as they are grateful for an approach to take them away from sipping their wine alone in the corner. Try to make an effort to approach someone and it will often become easier with time as you begin to recognise people at the events. Though it is important to make sure that you don't create a clique. This not only makes it more difficult for others to begin networking themselves but also stunts the growth of your own network as you begin to instinctively talk to the small circle of people that you already know.
Focus entirely on one person
Leading on from the point about trying to not be shy, it is important that you don't talk to only one person at an event. It can come across as clingy and doesn’t really give off the impression of a strong and independent business person. It also limits the benefits that can be gained from speaking to multiple people. The more people that you know the more you can put people the right people together even if it doesn’t directly grow your business. This creates an aura and reputation that you are a valuable person to know in the industry. People will also owe you favours and begin to think of you when they have business that they can push your way.