Some people take naturally to traditional business networking. They’re able to enter a room full of strangers and navigate it flawlessly, jumping from one insightful conversation to the next before leaving with a bunch of business cards that represent genuine opportunities.
For most of us, however, they’re tricky affairs. You have to strike the balance between being confident enough to put the best foot forward for your business, yet humble enough to spend as much time as possible listening to what others have to say.
Traditional business networking is still vitally important, and your business could benefit from it – providing you follow these golden rules for preparation:
Research who it is you want to meet
Most networking events will offer attendees some form of pre-visit list containing who will be there. Normally, this simply consists of business names, but it gives you the perfect opportunity to make a note of who you need to make a beeline for.
If the list contains names, even better, because that means you can hunt the people down on LinkedIn, connect and make contact before the event. Find out as much as you can about the businesses and people you’re going to meet – it’ll stand you in great stead on the day for when it’s time to shake hands.
Write down your goals
What do you want to achieve from this event? Is there a specific connection you need to make? Do you need to spread the word about a recent, big development at your company?
It might be that you simply want to get to know more people within the industry, which is as good a reason as any to attend.
Whatever it is that has sparked this visit, take some time to write down the specific goal and what you’ll need to do to achieve it.
Get plenty of business cards printed
This is an easy one, but you might forget it, given the prominence of LinkedIn in the digital economy.
Business cards are absolutely required at networking events. Turn up without any, and you’ll have to say “sorry, I forgot to bring my cards” far too many times. Don’t be that person – get plenty printed in advance for the day.
Work on a super-fast pitch
Sometimes referred to as an ‘elevator pitch’, this is just a few lines about your business that you can utter to a stranger without thinking about it.
Your super-fast pitch needs to be engaging, encapsulate the reason your business exists and explain its main benefits to customers in twenty seconds or less (ten, if you’re feeling brave).
This takes time to get right but it really is possible and will be the perfect opener when someone at a networking event asks what your business is all about.
Our tips above are non-exhaustive, but they will prepare you for your next business networking event. Use them, and the time you spend in that room won’t be wasted.