Here at Aspire, the Research & Insight team attend a high volume of networking events, and we really enjoy the opportunity to go out to socialise with our existing contacts, and make new ones. Over the years, this has enabled us to build up a good portfolio of contacts, but it’s also helped us to understand the current trends in the market and what is affecting people in the industry – which in turn helps us to do our jobs better!
But when you’re not used to doing it, networking can be daunting – so here are our top ten tips to ensure you make the contacts you want and enjoy yourself at the same time!
Be yourself. So simple, but so important! Your natural personality will come through in conversation and so being yourself and being genuine is key in getting to know people. No one wants to deal with someone that they think is false. Plus you will feel uncomfortable and awkward.
Set goals. Know what you want to achieve before you go. What is the purpose of the event? Is it to meet new people, catch up with established contacts or gather information? You can then decide what you would deem to be a success. Not every event will bring you lots of new contacts and business. Wherever possible have a list of attendees so that you know who you want to meet.
Know your stuff. Whether you’re promoting your business or yourself, make sure you know how to articulate your selling points and have a two minute ‘elevator pitch’ ready. What would you tell someone if you were in the lift with them? Make sure it’s clear, concise and interesting.
Keep up to date with the market. Ensure that you have a few things to talk about when you meet people that are market based. Read the industry press that morning for ideas – for our team it would be Research Live, as well as making sure we’re following clients and big research companies on LinkedIn to be sure we’re in the know.
Be resourceful. Introduce people that you already know, make suggestions for other contacts, and offer advice and ideas where appropriate. You will be remembered for this and people will often approach you again down the line, or recommend you to people.
Ask open ended questions. This ensures you learn as much about someone or a situation as possible. It also encourages people to talk more and this will be more engaging for you.
Listen. Don’t talk over someone and really listen to what they have to say. Express an interest through follow up questions. People don’t want to think you are looking over their shoulder to find the next person you want to talk to.
Go to a variety of events. You can’t expect to meet new people by only attending the same events every year. Find out from your contacts which events they go to that are relevant to you and your industry.
Plan your exit. You want to meet a few people, but find it difficult to excuse yourself without appearing rude. Do you need another drink, or a bathroom break? Plan this beforehand so that you can execute it and circulate more efficiently. People will understand - they are there for a similar reason!
Follow up with new contacts. This is very important. It can be easy to speak to people at an event but this isn’t enough and you’ll miss valuable opportunities. Within 48 hours of meeting someone, drop them an email to let them know it was good to meet them or connect with them on LinkedIn. This will ensure they have your contact details and will remember you.
And finally...always stay two drinks behind your contacts…it’s a fruitless exercise if you don’t remember the next day who you met!
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