The center of business networking is building new business relationships in person. It can also be done virtually via video conferencing. However, online networking can’t fully replace the sensory experience of meeting new people face-to-face.
As humans, we are wired to learn from non-verbal communication when we meet people in person. Subsequently, we can develop better and deeper relationships when we connect to others in real life. It’s an invaluable tool to your career development to learn the art of in-person business networking.
Read on to learn specific tips on how to connect with the right people through business networking to enrich your professional interests and enhance your career possibilities. Specifically, you’ll discover:
The importance of business networking in person
Seven strategies for effective business networking:
What is business networking, and why do I need to use it?
Business networking is an opportunity to meet new people outside the regular circle of people you know. When meeting new people, you expose yourself to others who may become customers, partners, or business leads, giving you new opportunities to expand your career.
As long as you understand the value of business networking, you need only strategically apply yourself at any business event whether in-person or virtual.
What are seven strategies for effective business networking?
There is an art to building business relationships. It requires a strategy on what to do before a business event and then applying yourself accordingly during the event.
Don’t worry about feeling shy or out of place. The more events you attend, the more you’ll be able to practice these key factors in person and not just in theory. Eventually, you will perfect your process so you shine like a rock star.
1. Prepare accordingly
Research the business event you signed up for. Who are the speakers, what are the topics, and what do you hope to learn? How much time will you have to connect with others? Some events make it a point to have “speed-networking” time set aside expressly to sit with a vendor and talk for 15 minutes or so. The bell rings, and you move on to the following table.
2. Have an elevator pitch ready
You must develop a paragraph that quickly conveys what you do. You don’t have to memorize it like a robot, but it should flow freely when you meet someone for the first time. You should be able to easily describe who you are and what you do in about 30 seconds.
- Be natural
- Be robotic.
- Be prepared, rehearse in advance.
- Be afraid of mistakes.
- Sign up for events that are related to your career field.
- Sign up and not attend out of fear.
- Find out if your company will be sponsoring any business events that you might be able to assist as a volunteer.
- Shy away from opportunities that could be just around the corner if you don’t go with an open mind.
It goes beyond just stating your job title. “Hi, I’m John, a sales consultant.” That’s pretty generic. Change it up to “Hi, I’m John, and I’m a project manager at XYZ company. We are a premier software company providing customer service solutions to small business owners. I see you are the owner of ABC company. Do you have a CMS system in place?”
Notice that John states who he is, what he does, what company he works for, and what service his company provides. He mentions that his company creates solutions for small business owners, demonstrating it’s a B2B (business to business) operation. He then shows interest in the other company by asking a question. That is how easily a conversation can start.
- Introduction: “Hi, I’m [name], a [position title] at [company name]. It’s great to meet you!”
- Value proposition: “We’re the only company that offers [value proposition].”
- Demonstrate examples of your company solution outcomes: “We helped small businesses exceed their operational goals by 40% in 2021."
- Suggest action: “Would you like to schedule a meeting next week?”
- Follow up with your contact information on a business card
3. Close the conversation effectively
Once you and the other person have learned a bit about each other, you can shake hands and politely thank the other person for the few minutes spent networking. Remind them how they can contact you (email, call) and hand out your business card.
4. Tips for business networking: dress appropriately
It’s a good rule of thumb to dress as if you were going to work. In other words, business casual at the very least, but not so formal as to come across as stiff. Some multi-day business networking events may have one night set aside for a formal dinner which requires appropriate attire. Otherwise, you don’t need to dress in Sunday Best, but look sharp and groomed for those important first impressions. This is also true for virtual networking events.
5. Meet strangers proactively
Be the first to approach someone instead of waiting for them to come to you. Walk up to a stranger, politely introduce yourself, and then ask the other person questions. That’s the key to business networking: to show you are interested in finding out what others do, think, and say. Inquire not just about their line of work but how they got there, why they picked their job, and so on.
6. Practice good listening skills
During the conversation, keep eye contact because looking away or at your cell phone shows disinterest. Wait until a person finishes talking, and then paraphrase what you heard. This shows you are actively listening to what they say.
7. Bring business cards
Depending on how big the networking event is, bring a good number (minimum of 25) of business cards to have on hand to give to companies or exchange with other attendees. For people who want to cut down on the use of paper, there is a way to create a business card on your cell phone whereby the other person just scans the QR code, and it instantly appears on their cell phone.
For virtual networking, you can provide your email address or your LinkedIn profile which serve the same purpose as a business card.
Understand the purpose of business networking and the value it can add to your career.
Attend business networking events in person when you can.
Attend virtual business events as an alternative to in-person meetups, and follow the same guidelines used in face-to-face networking.
Apply the given tips to make it easier for you to connect with others and network successfully.