Working the Room: A No-Fear Guide to Networking Events

One of the best tactics you can use to build your business is attending networking events. But walking into a room full of strangers can be intimidating even for a seasoned business builder. Here’s how you can make the most out of this opportunity.

Find the Meetings

Networking events are happening all over your town. Whether it is the local chamber of commerce, the rotary club or a professional development group, you can always find an event where dozens, maybe even hundreds of local people are meeting. Find the one that suits your needs the best. For example, Trino Luna of Omaha, NE, joined his local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“At the meetings, I have met a lot of different people looking to change careers, so it is a great opportunity for me to tell them about my business opportunity,” says Trino. Rosemary Bell of O’Fallon, MO recently joined her local chapter of Business Network International (BNI). The group meets weekly and guests are invited to attend two meetings before deciding whether they want to join the chapter.

“The meetings are a great opportunity because at each one, you get one minute to introduce yourself and promote your business,” Rosemary says. “Then, we rotate opportunities to give a 6-8 minute presentation to the group.” Prepare Yourself

Be sure to bring a stack of business cards with you and be prepared to summarize what you do and why you love your business. Many networking events have a “business card exchange” at the beginning of each meeting where you have an opportunity to meet everyone at your table. The last thing you want is to run out of cards and miss a potential opportunity to get a call later! Wear a shirt with your company logo on it so people who know of the company can recognize it, and those who don’t know about it can ask you what it is.

Provide Useful Content

Successful networking is all about sharing useful content with others. Provide information, content and helpful advice to others and they are more likely to respond. Consider being a sponsor of a meeting. Many organizations allow members to give a presentation or put an ad in the program book in exchange for a sponsorship fee. This puts your business in the spotlight and allows you to reach out to the entire group, beyond the individuals at your own table.

Form Relationships

Forming relationships is the goal of professional networking events. Instead of starting out with a sales pitch, ask others about their careers and what they like about it. “The key to networking at these events is to have good listening skills,” Rosemary advises. People love talking about themselves, so this will naturally open up the door for conversation. Be an active listener. Then stay in touch. That can mean planting the seed of interest about your business, then developing the relationship further. Maybe you send a business referral or pass along an article you found that relates to his or her industry. Perhaps you send a business owner a congratulatory note when you find out about an accomplishment. Once you have formed a credible professional relationship, you have set yourself up for a business opportunity meeting later. Plus, even if that individual isn’t ready to become a customer yet, perhaps they know of someone else who is.

Some tips for using networking events successfully:

1. Determine your goals in participating in networking meetings so that you can pick groups that will help you get what you are looking for. Some meetings are focused on professional development, learning, volunteering or local economic development, while others are focused strictly on forming business connections.

2. Volunteer for the organization. Simply helping plan a meeting or event helps you stay visible and puts you in a better position to meet more people.

3. Become known as a powerful resource for others. When you form a reputation as a resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. By remaining on others’ radar and being a resource to them, you become the first person they will want to call when they have a referral.

4. Follow through quickly on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow.

as seen in Lifestyle magazine

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