1. Practice, especially if you don’t like networking or you are shy. Find someone who will role play with you and help you practice different scripts that concisely introduce you and your business to others. By planning ice-breaker conversations in advance, you will go into the networking event with more ease and confidence. The more you network, the easier it gets, but you have to keep at it.
2. Start with talking about yourself, not your business. Even though the main goal of networking is to get the other person to have confidence in you and your services, don’t lead conversations with talking about your business. Allow the person you are talking with to get to know you as a person before you shift to telling them about your business. People do business with people, not companies.
3. Set a goal. Prior to attending the event, set a goal for how many contacts you want to make. Make sure that you have enough business cards to hand out to everyone you meet. Do not stop working the room until you have met your goal.
4. Write reminders on business cards. When you are meeting a lot of people at once, by the time you get home you might have forgotten who is who. When you conclude a conversation, write a key fact about that person on their card. This will help trigger your memory after the event and allow you to send a more personalized follow-up email.
5. Put your phone in your pocket. Nothing screams “I am not interested in what you have to say” like someone who is checking email or texting while they are talking to you. If you need to check your email or take a call, excuse yourself from the conversation and do so in private.
6. Know in advance who you want to meet. Before you head out to the networking event, do your homework and see who will be there. If you are comfortable doing so, before the event, reach out to the people you want to meet. For example, send a LinkedIn InMail message introducing yourself and asking if they will have time to meet you during the event. Be specific in your request and suggest a day, time and place. Keep the initial meeting to 30 minutes or less. If you suggest anything longer, such as lunch, they may decline for lack of time.
7. Do not add LinkedIn connections until the next day. You don’t want to add a LinkedIn connection 30 minutes after you meet someone, but you also don’t want to wait until next week. Wait until the day after you meet someone to send them a connection request. You will still be fresh in their memory yet not seem too eager.
8. Go light on the alcohol. Many networking events include drinks. While a glass of wine may take a little bit of the edge off, having too many can cause you to embarrass yourself. Pace your consumption and be sure to eat food. Networking is like a job interview and you wouldn’t drink at a job interview would you?
9. Bring breath mints, not gum. You want to have fresh breath, but you don’t want to be chewing on anything while you are talking.
10. Be yourself! Let your natural personality shine and just be yourself. Try to enjoy meeting new people and enjoy your time networking. People will sense that you are genuine and you will have more networking success.