We've all been there. You know, that networking event where you came away wondering why you went. Sometimes is really is better to stay home.
Networking takes your time and money away from alternatives, so whenever possible, give careful consideration to how you're in the game and what return you are expecting from your investment.
Here are 5 tips to increase your success and generate some tangible ROI:
1) Go solo.
One of the best ways to inhibit new and meaningful connections is to have the comfort of your colleague or BFF beside you. When you are alone, you are more approachable, more vulnerable, and more inclined to stretch yourself outside your comfort zone. You're more likely to meet different types of people and get into different types of conversations as well. Be curious and put yourself out there – who knows how you’ll be inspired.
2) Elicit deep and passionate stories from your conversations.
Networking is the time to get to know the people you're talking to, to identify if they are a connection with longer-term potential. It's the best opportunity you have to let them showcase themselves and so, when they radiate with enthusiasm and passion, and elevate your trust and interest in the process, you know you've found gold. Here are a few questions to help you get that conversation started:
– How do you and/or your business add value?
– What makes you and/or your business awesome?
– Why do you do what you do?
– What's important about what you do?
– How do you hope to change the world?
3) Don't dog paddle. Dive in!
When you meet someone new, especially at a networking event, they've already had several mundane and superficial conversations … they are probably dog paddling their way through the crowd, safely floating at the surface while, just below, there's a whole bundle of energy at work. Go to the source of that energy. Deepen the conversation, explore what's going on at a more profound level and find out how they look so at ease and stay afloat. (This, of course, is a metaphor for their business). Ask questions like:
– What's working well for you in your business?
– What would be a great win for you at this event?
– What would that win do for you and your business?
– How could I be of value to you while we're here?
4) Request more business cards than you give out.
If you have their card, you're in control of the follow-up. If they have yours, who knows when they will connect again? Your networking objective is to meet people, gather cards, and seek out professional opportunities for future exploration. Save the selling for the follow-up, when you can really focus on the sales objective.
5) Prioritize follow-up.
Once back at home or office, sort your collection of cards according to their relationship category: Potential Clients, Influencers, Potential Suppliers, Strategic Partners, etc. and then start your follow-up right away. Anything you can do to remind them of your conversation is a bonus – it will help you stand out. Be sure to integrate your Social Media platforms with these connections as well, to give them alternative ways to interact with you, and also to increase your virtual engagement.
Finally, remember that networking is your opportunity to be a memorable influencer. Meet people, engage with them and really listen to their story, identify ways to add value to them immediately or in the future and leave them with the desire to continue their connection with you.
If you're successful, it's been a good use of your resources and you will be appropriately rewarded.