- Dress to Impress. Look your best. Go to bed early the night before so you are well-rested and fully-charged. Get up early, and make a special effort to appear as the professional you are. Women, fix your hair and make-up- wear a sharp business suit. Men, for heaven’s sake, wear a tie and polish your shoes!
- Be Prepared. a) Know how you wish to present yourself and your marketing message, often referred to as your “elevator speech”. Be concise and brief. Practice your elevator speech beforehand so that your delivery will be natural, confident and relaxed; b) Always have your networking tools at all times, such as an ample supply of pens, business cards, your name badge, and any collateral material you may wish to use, such as flyers, brochures, CDs, etc.
- Arrive early. True professionals arrive with ample time to park, enter, relax and focus on other people in the room. Arriving early will give you time to pause and center your thoughts and intentions so that the time you spend networking will be of benefit to you and your goals and to others. Time spent in such preparation will help make you appear to be someone others will want to know and do business with. Remember, people do business with people they like and, like it or not, you will be judged by others based upon their first impression of you. Make sure it’s a good one.
- Devise a Strategy. Not all events are the same. Make sure you have an idea of what your goal is for the event you are attending- what you want the outcome to be for you and for those you will meet. Do you want to get to know only a select few very well, be introduced to a certain type of client or simply make as many contacts as possible? If so, set a minimum number of business cards you want to collect. Devising a strategy will make it easier to stay focused and achieve your goal, as well as helping others to achieve their goals by being generous with your knowledge and connections. Have a plan and stay on task.
- Be a Giver and a Connector. When you focus on giving and being helpful to others who are also trying to achieve their goals you will find better success in reaching your goals. Nobody likes a “taker”. Being kind and generous will get you the right attention and earn you respect. If you want others to want to do business with you, you need first to be likeable, respectable and earn their trust.
Be like a host of your own event and connect people. This can be as simple as introducing two people to each other, giving a testimonial about one person to another or a group of others, to as elaborate as giving your testimony about an individual and their products/services to an entire assembly. By giving of yourself and focusing on others you will increase your social capital.
- Leave Your Worries Behind. Remember that everyone has problems of their own (and will be doing their best to be positive) so don’t bring your problems in with you. No one will need, or want to hear about them. Before you enter through the door, take a deep breath and smile. Tell yourself it’s show time!. This is the chance you’ve been waiting for. Now is the time to put your best foot forward and shine. By being your most dynamic, positive and energetic, you cannot help but infuse others with your enthusiam.
- Don’t Just Talk. LISTEN. When someone is taking the time to speak with you, focus your entire attention upon that person and what they are saying. Listen with FOCUS. Really hear what it is they want, need and are looking for. Keep your eyes and ears focused, and your inner thoughts and talk subdued. Respond, and ask questions. Show you are concerned about helping to meet their needs. The more information you get from them (as opposed to speiling out about yourself) the better equipped you’ll be to be of real service.
People are not fools. They know a phony when they see one and a “schmoozer” when they hear one. And no one appreciates being “primed” like a pump. Be genuine in your approach and in your interaction with others. This will build trust. Remember, its all about building relationships first. If you care to show real interest in learning about someone and their business you will make a lasting impression as someone who genuinely cares- the kind of person, namely, that they will more likely want to do business with.
- Teach/Don’t Sell. Your goal should never be to make an immediate sell. Networking is about building relationships with people, who in turn will want to tell others about you and what you do. The most powerful advertising is by word-of-mouth, to say nothing of being the most cost-effective. A referral from another person is the greatest compliment and the most valuable “lead”. If you can teach others about who you are as a person and what it is you do, with an emphasis on the type of clients you are aspiring to attract, you will succeed in building a more powerful and effective salesforce with a far wider reach than yours alone.
- FOLLOW-UP. Amazingly enough, timely follow-up is the most neglected aspect of networking. Oftentimes, less than ten percent of people who take business cards from those in a position to award business bother to follow-up with them after an event, even just to say thank you, and that they are interested in exploring a relationship. Take notes on business cards so you can later mention something of your discussion with a person, or include a referral in your thank you note.
Since so many people fail to do any of these thoughtful things, imagine how you can stand out by being one of the few who takes the time to reach out to those who took the time to speak with you.
Do More Follow-up!
Face it. We are all overloaded with information from those who want to add us to their database. A simple thank you email or card, while an excellent start, is not enough to make the connections you are looking to establish, nor build the kinds of relationships you want to build.
Now that you have made that all-important first impression, and distinguished yourself from the herd with the thoughtful follow-up, keep going! Don’t stop there. Be willing to dig deeper and make the continued effort towards building true, lasting relationships.