May 16th kicks off National Small Business Week and for the next seven to 14 days there are tons of events and awards ceremonies for small business owners which is a fantastic opportunity to meet and greet potential contacts. I keynote and speak at many conferences and small business events, and often I see small business owners doing their businesses a disservice by how they show up and network at events. With tons of networking opportunities taking place from now until Memorial Day, I wanted to provide a guide on how to prepare for a networking event. I call them my 7 Keys to Power Networking.
Here are 7 things to consider when networking:
1. Set a Goal. Don’t go to any event without a goal in mind. You should always know why you are attending the event. You should not go to any event where your best target customers are not the majority of the attendees. When I attend events, I try to secure 5 quality contacts and that’s it. Why? Because there’s only so much time to follow-up with people. The fortune is in the follow-up, I’ll talk about that in next week’s blog post.
2. Research Attendees. Try tofind out who is attending the event. Look at who’s on the board of the event sponsor. Check out the names of the honorary committee hosting the invitation. Make a call to the organizers to try to get as much information as a possible. (If they utilized an online invitation, you can see who else was invited. Use Google and LinkedIn to research as many attendees as possible. This makes having conversations much more interesting and you’ll show your prospect you’ve got legitimate interest in them. You want to learn any information that will help you make a personal connection as quickly as possible.
3. Bring You’re A Game. You can’t bring your A game in your B suit. Make sure you look great head to toes. Men shoes are important. Ladies make sure the makeup and neckline are appropriate. Everything should fit well, and it will really boost your confidence. You don’t get a second chance make a first impression! Dress how you want others to perceive you and your business.
4. The Reception IS The Event. Game time is the reception. DO NOT BE LATE! The reception is your best chance to track down your targets. You must be on time and armed with your business cards at the reception. Why? Once you take your seat you can only network with the other 9 people at your table. If you are going to attend an event with a friend– divide and conquer the event.
5. Go For The Relationship– Not The Chicken. Do not head immediately to the food table. Work The Room! Be fearless and ready to introduce yourself to anyone. Once you make a contact maintain eye contact. Don’t look over their shoulder at your key target who just entered the room. Be present where you are. Anyone could potentially be a great contact.
6. Moving On From A Contact. Moving on can be tricky. It’s important not to be rude. But most likely the person you are talking to has an agenda too, so do not hesitate to shut down the conversation and move on. Here’s three great lines you can use to make a graceful exit. Use one of these lines as appropriate; “It was so nice to meet you, I’m going to head over to get a drink.” or “It was so nice meeting you and I’m going to give you a call.” “I do not want to monopolize you at this event, I am sure there are more people in here you want to meet. Let keep in touch and see how we can help each other.” With any of these lines you can smoothly move on to your next potential prospect.
7. Take Notes. You’ll want to remember the details of your conversations, write down a few notes on the back of the contact’s business card to help your memory later. If you meet a lot of people each week sometimes it’s hard to keep people straight relying on your memory. Your notes will help making follow-up much more personal.
What other networking tips do you have? I love to learn about other good ideas.
Melinda F. Emerson, SmallBizLady, is one of America’s leading small business experts. She is an author, speaker and small business coach whose areas of expertise include small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. As CEO of MFE Consulting LLC, Melinda develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to End Small Business Failure. She publishes a resource blog, www.succeedasyourownboss.com and hosts a weekly talk show on Twitter called #Smallbizchat for emerging entrepreneurs. Forbes Magazine named Melinda Emerson one of the Top 20 Women for Entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. Melindahas been featured in the New York Times,Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Fortune and Black Enterprise.She’s the author of the bestselling book “Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.”