I’ve been going to networking events for small business for as long as I’ve been in business. I’ve learned loads from the people I’ve met and forged relationships that have stood the test of times.
Last week I was in a pub, not an unusual place to be in Dublin but what was different was I was at the pre-drinks for the ‘Content Mastery Summit’.
I was there to meet my fellow conference attendees. Meeting people offline is something I don’t do enough of. Yes I meet lots of people as a trainer but I rarely get to talk to them beyond the lecture hall. I’ve been doing a lot of this recently and it’s been great. I’ve started building relationships with people that I hope will blossom long after the conference doors close.
I share my top networking tips for small business below:
#1 Use social networks prior to the event
Use Twitter and other social networks, find out who else is there. Twitter is a great ice breaker, you can arrange to meet in tea breaks or after the event. Use the hashtag for the event to track who is in the room with you, look at their profiles, find common ground and introduce yourself.
At the Inbound conference last year there was a hashtag just for those attending alone. This tag meant I didn’t have to dine alone and gave me some great new contacts.
#2 Concentrate on making a few strong contacts
I was at an event once where we were asked to take part in a networking task. In the space of 2 minutes, we were to collect as many business cards as we could. We ran around grabbing business cards rarely looking up to see who was handing them to us. I collected about 20 cards in that session. Do you know what happened them? Most of them ended up in the bin.
Why? I wasn’t making a meaningful connection with the owners of those cards. Networking like so many other things is about quality over quantity. Instead of trying to meet everyone in the room I find it more valuable to focus on 3 or 4 people and really get to know them. These stronger relationships always pay off and continue to blossom long after the event.
#3 Be an introducer
A good networker brings new people into the circle and introduces them. They’ll remember you for it and pay it forward in the future.
Of course, you’ll have to be good at remembering names to do this. Try using a new contacts name a lot when you first meet them, this will keep it in your memory longer.
#4 Never, ever let people stand alone
Don’t ever let anyone stand by themselves. No one likes being left on their own at an event. We’ve all been there, standing in the corner, shuffling, uncomfortable. If you see someone on their own ask them to join your group. You know you’d appreciate it if someone did the same for you.
What tips do you have for nervous small business networkers? Have you had a good or bad experience you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about them.
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