Social Media is all the thing these days. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find the business experts talking about how important it is to develop online relationships, to meet and get to know potential clients and customers through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. And they’re right. Much of the business world operates in the virtual world these days and strong online relationships can lead to increased success and new opportunities.
But networking in the “real” world is still an essential component of most businesses. If you do business with people in your geographic area—or if you want to—you need to get out there and get to know people in person.
Amazing concept, I know, but face-to-face networking is still just about the most effective way to meet new people, make new contacts and build your business.
There are many local opportunities for networking. You can find them through your local Chamber of Commerce, through professional associations or even through meetup.com. There is a group for just about every interest. With so many options, how do you know which to choose and how to make the most of your networking opportunity?
Being a veteran of the networking trenches, I have had the opportunity to both network and observe many networkers in action. Here are a few tips that have helped me to make nearly every event a successful one.
- Be interested in the people you meet. Even if they aren’t your ideal client, they may lead you to someone who is.
- Practice a brief elevator speech before you go—not so much about what you do but about how what you do can help them.
- Bring a good supply of professionally printed business cards with you. If you aren’t sure about this one, read this blog post.
- Don’t bring your resume or portfolio with you to a networking event. It’s not a go-see; it’s an informal get-to-know-you.
- Don’t tell your life story or talk about what a hard time you’re having finding a job. That isn’t what your fellow networkers came to hear. Be brief, be positive and be uplifting. You’ll leave a much better impression.
- Don’t talk about irrelevant work experience. For example, if you’re looking for work as a photographer, it won’t help to discuss your background as a tile setter.
- Don’t consume too much alcohol. Many networking events are “happy hours.” It will be much happier and more productive if you aren’t intoxicated. Yes, people do notice and remember. One alcoholic beverage is plenty.
- Dress professionally. This doesn’t mean you need to wear a business suit, but wearing your work-at-home uniform of jeans and a sweatshirt doesn’t send the message that you’re serious about your business.
- Bring your calendar. If you have the opportunity to set up a follow-up appointment, you need to be prepared.
- Follow up without being pushy. If you got a business card, but not an invitation to meet or follow up, send an email or make a brief phone call the next day. If you really want to make a great impression, send a handwritten note—but do follow up by the next business day.
What are your best networking tips? Have any experiences to share? Please post your comments, questions and observations in the comment section below.
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