New to business networking? Here are some tips I’ve picked up that might help.
1. Dress to impress (your brand on people).
Personally I don’t think it’s about wearing a suit. If that works for your business image, fine, but as someone who appreciates a bit of fashion flair, I must say I’ve seen some badly-fitting, dowdy looking suits out there. If you’re going to wear one, make it current or classic, and make sure it fits both your body and your style.
I’ve also seen people wearing casual attire, which at first seems at odds with the general vibe of business networking events, but on getting to know the person you sometimes find it is perfect for what they are all about.
I place great importance on what I wear to networking and other business events, as I believe my brand is just as much about me as it is about my photography business. I also try to wear a statement piece or a splash of bright colour, to make sure I stand out in the crowd!
2. The most important thing to wear is a genuine smile.
Most people I meet at networking events are warm and genuine, and seem like positive, happy people. Even if you are getting up at 5:30 am in the dead of winter to be at a networking event across the city, what is the point of bothering if you’re going to reveal your grumpy side? A smile goes a long way to warming people to you and forces you to have a good time – even if you have to fake it ’til you make it!
3. Confidence is key
I am naturally shy around new people but I don’t think many people know it. I’ve seen some people at networking events standing on their own in a corner, or talking only to the friend they arrived with. I always go alone and try to have a meaningful, but brief conversation with as a few people. This often means going up to strangers and yes, interrupting conversations to say hi. But… isn’t this the point of networking?
4. Don’t push the business cards.
Ugh. It makes me cringe when people are sticking their business cards in your face before even having had a conversation with you. If it comes naturally in the conversation, I give out my card. I try to collect at least as many as I give out, because that guarantees more contacts for me – I know I will at least follow up, but just because someone takes your card and sounds interested, doesn’t mean they will get in touch. This leads me on to my next point.
5. Be good with the follow-through.
Contact everyone you meet within two days to thank them and let them know you enjoyed meeting them. I usually do this through LinkedIn, sometimes an email. Research the people that particularly interest you. Plan how you will make further connections with them in the future.
6. It’s not all about you.
If you think win-win, you can’t go wrong. Seek to help others more than yourself. This makes for genuine connections with people, not simply a sales-pitch. No-one likes that anymore anyway.
Do you agree or disagree? Do you have other tips? Would love to hear your experiences of networking!