Making the most of networking
Making the most of networking
JCI Cambridge's March 'Speed Networking' session, led by James Mitchell, was a great success in giving our members and guests the chance to both learn and brush up on their networking skills as well as making lots of new connections. Read on for James' roundup of the evening and his top tips for making the most of any networking opportunities.
Delivered in 3 parts, the session first consisted of splitting attendees into smaller groups, where each person took it in turns during timed rounds to talk about themselves in relation to one of the many important elements of effective networking, such as "What makes your business unique?" and "What is your role within your business?". After everyone had had a go at each of the 5 timed rounds attendees were asked to deliver an elevated pitch to their group where they combined all of the previous rounds' topics.
The second part was for attendees to volunteer to share this elevated pitch with the rest of the room.
Now that everyone had practised their elevated pitch and heard form others, the final stage was for the floor to be opened up to allow everyone to speak to anyone or chosen individuals in greater detail.
"The speed networking was a great opportunity to meet people from a wide variety of business backgrounds, and also develop networking and self promotion skills. A really good evening!" Amanda McDowall - IPULSE
Below is a short "Top Tips to Networking" which will help refine what was covered in this event help the people who missed out on attending. The most important of which is to follow up - there are so many tools available to us to make it easy to do. For example when you are given a business card the chances are that they are on LinkedIn. Make sure you connect with them and send them a quick thank you and if possible recommend a contact that maybe useful to them.
To Practise the art of following up we are holding a competition! ANYONE to write a comment about this event on our Facebook page by Monday 16th April will be entered into a prise draw to win a bottle of wine at our next event on Tuesday 17th April.
Top Tips to Networking (downloadable version available here)
1. Have a plan
Before you attend, always have an idea of what your goal is for each event you attend. Know beforehand what outcome you want for yourself or for the people you meet at each event, such as:
- Do you want to meet 3 people and focus on getting to know them really well?
- Are you looking for an introduction to a certain type of client?
- Are you looking for information or connections that will get you that information?
When you have a plan it is easier to stay focused and successfully achieve your expected outcomes. It also helps you to keep on track with helping others to achieve their goals, remind yourself to be generous with your own knowledge and connections.
2. Be Prepared
To make the most of your plan utilise any additional information or communication services provided by the organiser prior to attending. This could include identifying key people from the supplied attendee list, connecting with other attendees via the organiser's or your own social media channels e.g. Facebook, Linkedin.
3. Don't forget your networking tools
Always have networking tools with you at all times which includes:
- an ample supply of business cards
- your name badge
- a pen
- any marketing material such as brochures or leaflets.
4. Arrive early so you are available to meet people as they arrive
By arriving early you are less likely to feel rushed and flustered. It also means you are able to identify the key people that you have already decided to make contact with, letting you focus on learning about the t relevant people. People do business with people they like and you will be judged by others, like it or not, based on their first impression of you.
5. Leave your troubles behind
Put on a happy face at the door and remind yourself that it is 'show time', this is your time to sparkle and shine. People will look forward to seeing and meeting you if you are energetic, positive and outgoing. Again, people enjoy doing business with people that they like so do not burden or bore people with your troubles or problems.
6. Be a Giver and/or a Connector
When you focus on 'giving' and being helpful to others, the 'getting' will come later ... and often in unexpected ways. Foremost to remember is that no one likes a person with a taker' mentality. When you are generous people will notice and respect you for your kind nature and people generally do business with people that they respect, trust and like.
Act like a host at every event you attend by connecting people. This can be a simple act of introducing 2 people to each other or as elaborate as giving a testimonial about a person and their services to an entire group. All of these acts allow you to focus on the 'other' and grows your social capital in the room.
7. Be Genuine
Everyone knows when someone is 'schmoozing' so always be genuine in your interactions, because again, it comes back to building trust when showing brand 'you'. There is a huge difference between being INTERESTED and being INTERESTING. When you are genuinely interested in learning about someone and their business entirely for the sake of learning, you will leave a better and longer lasting impression as someone who genuinely cares.
8. Listen with focus
When someone is speaking give that person your entire focus and LISTEN. The greatest gift that you can give to another person is to truly hear what the person is saying, so really listen and keep your eyes and ears focused. Don't allow yourself to be distracted by letting your thoughts wander from what is being said to you. You've heard this before and it's worth repeating: you have 1 mouth and 2 ears for a reason, listen twice as much as you talk.
9. Do Teach, Don't Sell
The goal in networking is never the immediate sale of a product but the building of relationships with people who will be happy to tell others about who you are and what you do. Word of mouth is the most cost effective and powerful promotional tool so at every opportunity teach others about in a focused way, who you are as a person and what it is that you do. Always present a clear explanation of the type of clients that you are looking for. In doing this, you will be building a sales force that is far wider reaching than you are on your own.
10. Follow up
After the event send a thank you email to each person that you have had direct contact with. Mention something from your discussion in the thank you (it helps if you jot notes on the back of each person's business card). If there is a referral that you can supply to someone you've just met, include that in the follow up note. Showing up and following up are the two most important parts of networking. Showing up at an event is the easy part, the follow up is sadly the most neglected part of networking. Since so many people fail to follow up you can really stand out by just doing this simple act of reaching out to remind someone of who you are and what you do ... and that you are interested in exploring a relationship.
11. Follow up some more!
Statistics show that on average it takes between 7 and 12 impressions for a consumer to make a buying decision, and those are old numbers! With the overload of information we all face every day, the number of impressions required is more likely to be 15 - 20 before you make the connections you are looking to build! Meeting face to face is the 1st impression, an email, a phone call, another email, a lunch date ... don't stop after 1 or 2 impressions, keep going. Good networkers know that to build strong relationships they must dig deeper and make a sustained effort to build and develop ongoing relationships!