1. Make yourself memorable. Communicate your specific range of expertise and sell yourself with that in mind at networking events.
2. Share and educate. Do not sell. People are more inclined to actually listen and be more responsive to your product or service if you are teaching them something new. You also have more of a chance of them spreading the word or becoming a client if you apply this strategy.
3. Make a point to go outside your circle of friends. The point of networking is not to get to know the people you already know better, but to grow your base of contacts. Make sure you are circulating your time equally among potential new clients.
4. Integrate your circle of friends with your new contacts. This makes for great referral opportunities and doubles the amount of exposure and influence you can have.
5. Keep your body language in check and watch your alcohol intake. Pay close attention to your body language at networking events as you only have a couple hours to make a good first impression. Be sure and stand tall and always have a smile on your face. You will come off as confident and approachable as opposed to shy and guarded. Stick to one alcoholic beverage and then have diet coke, juice or a soda water with a lime in it. This way you can remain in control while still being socially appropriate.
6. Have your business card ready to handout. Simple statement, I know- but you would never believe how many times I have seen people fumbling for their business cards at networking events. Either rummaging through their purse or searching through their jacket pockets for a card to hand an interested prospect. This looks very unprofessional and gives a first impression that you are disorganized and scattered. Have your business card easily accessible at all times. You never know where you can meet a prospective new client.
7. Be yourself. The worst thing you can do at networking event is try to be who you think people want you to be. Believe me- you come off looking fake. Smile, laugh, be genuine and have a good time. You will gain the interest of more people and have the opportunity to engage your audience for longer periods of time.
8. The importance of follow up. Make sure and follow up with the individuals you connected with at the event. It only takes a few moments to send a quick email to let someone know how nice it was to meet them, because more than likely it’s out of site out of mind the next day.
9. Present yourself professionally online. If you use social networking sites, you should carefully monitor the quality of what you post and what others post on your site. Remember, these sites provide valuable networking opportunities, but only if you present yourself in a professional way.
10. Re-think the way you value your existing clients. Apply the simple phrase, “It’s better to give than to receive”. Take note of your clients’ birthdays, professional achievements, etc. and acknowledge them. Perhaps, send a gift basket to their office or a nice card to commemorate these occasions and accomplishments. This is a great way to earn your clients’ respect and gives you a better chance of them spreading the word about your business to their friends and colleagues.
– Kristine Bruner