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June 15, 2015

Making the most of networking

Business networking events can be a great way to boost your business’ reputation, meet potential partners, suppliers or investors and even win new customers. But if you don’t pick the right events, and aren’t willing to talk to new people, you won’t get much out of them. Here are some tips on making sure networking events give you a good return on the time invested:

1 Purpose.
Before you attend networking events, think about the true purpose of them. There is a reason it’s called networking – it is not a social event. Consider your industry and target customers before deciding to attend an event – is it right for your business?

2 Preparation.
With each event, you should prepare yourself thoroughly and go in with a plan. If possible try to get a list of the key speakers and attendees so you can decide who you really want to meet – you don’t want to end up talking to the same person for ages if there’s no common ground between you. It might be worth asking whoever is organising the event to introduce you to a particular person you want to meet.

3 Ask questions.
Try to take control of conversations by asking people questions. People often make the mistake of talking about themselves straight away, but it’s best to find out what others do and then try to link it to yourself by asking if there is anything you can help them with. But remember, no one wants to be overtly sold to at a networking event.

4 Take your time.
Less is more – it is better to speak to fewer people and form some quality connections than speaking to lots of people for a short time – unless of course, you’re at a speed networking event where brief bursts of conversation with different people are the plan.

5 Make a good impression.
Always have a professional-looking business card ready to hand out to contacts you make. People often judge a business by its card so invest time and money on yours. A bad business card can give the impression that you don’t invest time or effort in your own business.

6 Be nice.
Try to do favours for interesting people you meet, such as introducing them to other people or businesses you know. People are much more likely to remember you if you do something nice for them.

7 How did it go?
After the networking event, question yourself on how it went and who you met that you’d like to keep up with or potentially do business with.

8 Show an interest.
If you meet someone interesting, Google them, follow them on Twitter, maybe re-tweet them, subscribe to their newsletter – it’s all about showing an interest in what someone else is doing.

9 Follow up.
Make contact quickly with people you have met at an event – preferably within a couple of days. There’s no point in getting in contact four weeks later after you find their card in your pocket, because the chances are they won’t remember you.

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