Social media and virtual advertising is an almost mandatory facet for businesses today. Small businesses differ slightly in that they heavily rely on their stock customers: regulars if you will. While small business continues to ease itself into the cyber sphere, word-of-mouth marketing remains a prominent factor in success and maintenance. Instead of going door-to-door, a great way to strengthen connections and create new ones is through networking events. Though networking is the purpose of attending a networking event, the first conversation can be rather daunting. Preparation, positivity, and confidence are all integral parts of the equation for a successful evening.
What can you do to be well prepared?
Bring a small notepad and a pen for any information you find significant. DO NOT take notes on your iPhone. You will lose eye contact and this will disconnect you from the person. Put together 3 to 4 questions that leave room for explanation. This is a great conversational catalyst. For instance:
- How did you get into your field?
- What in [name of field] are you most passionate about?
- What’s next?
These questions will brush the surface of the person you’re speaking with. After 2-3 minutes you’ll have procured a sufficient amount of information. You will use this to decide whether to delve into more detail or move on to the next person. Whichever you chose, remember not to remain with any one person for too long. If the conversation becomes drawn out, thank the person for their time and politely excuse yourself.
How can you remain positive?
Try to enter these events with the perspective that each one will be a learning experience. If you go in like a shark, potential connections and clients will sense that and avoid you. Smile and mention only non-confrontational topics that are not surrounded by conflict. For example, avoid politics and religion.
Many people will not follow up or respond to your follow up messages and that is all right. Try to speak with at least 10 people during the evening. Quality trumps quantity, but keep in mind the more opportunities you give yourself the more possibilities you will have to create connections. With time these connections will hopefully develop into strong, lasting relationships.
How can you approach these situations with confidence?
If at any point during the evening you begin to feel anxious or unsure, find solace in the fact that people will generally return the energy you emit. If you approach any conversation with a warm, connected tone the person will likely become relaxed and available for a more candid conversation.
Amy Cuddy gives an amazing TED talk on the importance of body language. She says that it has a huge effect on how others see us and it can even change the way we see ourselves. Check out her video here and listen to her talk about the Power Pose.
Another tactic you may choose to employ is to exchange business cards at the beginning of the conversation. This way you can be sure to remember the name of the person you are speaking with and will have ample time to commit their face to memory. Later, when you review the card (in conjunction with your notes), you will be able to pair a name with a face. Try to include one of these points in your follow up email.
If you feel that you had a strong connection with someone you met, add them on LinkedIn. Keep in mind that LinkedIn will not create the connection, but rather facilitate it.
Some of these events can be absolutely enormous. It is important to follow up the very next day–a maximum of 24 hours. If you do not receive a response follow up again in 7 business days and 7 more business days thereafter. If additional time passes and you have still not connected, assume you will not be hearing from that person.
The recipe for a successful night of networking is preparation, positivity, and confidence. The most important concept out of all of these ideas is to listen more than you speak. People may admire a great speaker, a wordsmith, and a charmer; but people will revere a good listener. A good listener creates calm and allows people to feel a sense of trust. If you can create trust in a short amount of time, this person is very likely to refer you to his or her connections/clients and perhaps even become a client!
For more information, questions, or comments contact Bill Himmelstein at email@example.com.