Many of us give up our evenings to spend time at networking events. Are you making the most of these fantastic opportunities? Are you extracting real value from each one you attend? Or do you spend most of the evening waiting for it to end, checking your phone and chatting to one or two people you already know?
Here are five strategies for extracting the maximum value from your future networking events. By following these tips, you will leave each event, knowing that it was worth every minute of your time.
1. Arrive early!
Don’t dawdle and don’t make excuses, just be early. By arriving early you will usually meet the organiser, who will then be your best friend for the rest of the night and will introduce you to many people. This can be a fantastic way to get introductions to the people you want to meet in the room. By being early you arrive in the initial mixing stage, so no need to break into established circles of conversation which can be difficult. And, when other people arrive later, you are in a position to welcome them into the group and help them overcome any nerves, something they will definitely appreciate.
2. Plan before you go
Look at the attendance list, if you can, before you arrive and think about who you want to talk to. Who is a potential client? Whose work is relevant to yours? Who can open up opportunities for your business? You can even get in touch beforehand and say you are looking forward to meeting/catching up with them at the event. Find out a bit about people beforehand (LinkedIn is good) to have some interesting and relevant points to ask about.
3. Set a goal for the number of meetings arranged
Go to the event with the aim of verbally confirming a certain number of meetings. Don’t go with the aim to get the most business cards, we can all do that. You will be surprised how willing people are to meet up following a good conversation – if you would like to take a conversation further, ask for a meeting. Simple as that! Having a goal like this will keep you motivated to meet new people throughout the event and afterwards you have a clear measure of your success at the event.
4. Always shake hands when meeting others
We convey a lot of emotion through touch; more than we can read in people’s faces. Shake hands when you meet people with the right pressure and warmth and they will be more open and friendly to you. Touch between two people increases the bonding hormone Oxytocin. Furthermore, a study by Income Centre for Trade Shows found that people are twice as likely to remember you if you shake their hand.
5. Be interested not just interesting
This is the most important one, don’t go to networking events to talk and be interesting, go to listen and be genuinely interested in others. When people talk about themselves it increases dopamine levels and activity in the pleasure, motivation and reward areas of the brain. So, getting others to talk about themselves at networking events makes them experience feelings of pleasure which they will associate with you, and build a stronger bond.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Dale Carnegie.
Networking is a great way to build your professional network and meet interesting and valuable people. Only go to networking events if you are going to be mentally present, don’t go to check your phone or speak to people you work with. Plan first, work on your handshake and set goals. Arrive early and be encourage others to talk about themselves.
Look out for part 2 - next month where I will give some top tips for conversation – what to say, how to keep conversation flowing and most importantly, how to leave an awkward conversation!