Looking for new clients? Growing your product’s reach? Need to learn about new market information and innovations? Or just searching for an investor or potential employees.
The best opportunity, as a startup executive, to achieve these objectives is to attend business networking related conferences, events, and conventions.
People always told me I’m a connector.
Yes, I love connecting with new people and then connecting people to people.
But I’ve also learned that just because things come naturally to me, it’s not always the same for others. Business networking is stressful. Especially when you’re a startup or small business and new to the industry.
Here are some quick tips I have learned over the years,
hopefully, they will help you become a better networker.
Prepare for the Business Networking Event
- Research the conference. Most events have their own Facebook page and Twitter account. Follow them and the event hashtag to get updated information.
- When you register for an event, most organizers will send you a list of attendees. Study the list and make your list of executive you would like to meet.
- Research the attendees. Review their LinkedIn account. Sometimes I will even send a “request to connect” before the conference letting them know i will be attending. I also do this with the speakers, letting them know I look forward to hearing their presentation.
- Elevator pitch. Prepare a concise 30-second overview of your company. Practice with video on your smartphone. You want your prospects to remember your company and, subsequently, ask more questions.
- Business cards. I cannot tell you how many times i have had executives run out of cards and end up writing their info on a napkin. Be professional and bring more than enough business cards. You should also have a digital business card. Millennials are all using them and it is the future.
Business Networking at the Event
Arrive early. Get the lay of the land and feel comfortable.
It seems like everyone is so uncomfortable when they first arrive. So if you can greet someone and make them feel welcome you are off to a great start.
Log into the conference, convention or event with the live Twitter feed and introduce yourself as an attendee. You be surprised at the number of likes and comments. Share your conference thoughts in real time on Twitter.
Now the fun part…..
Most of us struggle when it’s time to speak with strangers. It is not easy for us to approach people we don’t know and connect with them. We are not naturally wired for that.
However, networking is crucial to marketing your startup business. You just have to know how to get the ball rolling so a business friendship can ensue.
So how do you get the conversation going?
Just Introduce Yourself
- The easiest thing to do is to approach someone who also seems to be alone. It is easier because in most cases that other person will be hungry for attention, and thus, receptive.
- It’s not too difficult to come up with a conversation starter. You are attending the same conference so there must be a genuine interest in the conference’s subject matter. Simply offer your hand and introduce yourself.
- Other conversation starters are asking for information or offering a sincere compliment.
- At this point, it will be enough to just say “Hi, how are you?”
Almost everyone’s favorite subject is … themselves!
Every person has a great story to share. So ask and listen.
Listening is one of the most important traits of a great networker.
Good business networking requires a business executive to acquire the skill of active listening.
Pay full attention and listen carefully to what is being said. Expressing genuine interest in other’s opinions attracts more clients.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ~ Maya Angelou
Other traits of great networkers are enthusiasm, asking interesting questions and expressing generosity. The idea of ‘What’s in it for me’ should be replaced with the thought of ‘What’s in it for you?’. The best networkers go out of their way to serve and give,give, give.
Giving connects two people, the giver and the receiver, and this connection gives birth to a new sense of belonging. ~ Deepak Chopra
Look for opportunities to help. Networkers aren’t just willing to help you, they go out of their way to help you. Everyone is able to help someone in their own way; an introduction to a friend, a recommendation of a hotel, restaurant or article. Any of these efforts,as a result, will pay dividends. Look for ways you can help. I generally don’t mention my business until asked.
This line of approach has worked for me. “You know, based on our conversation, I think there’s some synergy here. The smart thing is for us to set a meeting to discuss this further. I can bring an initial outline of ideas and we can strategize. How’s Wednesday the 29th at 3:00?” By setting a date and time while you are with a potential prospect you avoid the “I’m just calling to follow up” call which adds no value.
Follow-Up after a Business Networking Event
Business networking events are all about making and keeping contacts that’s why it is important to follow up.
The follow up for me is the most challenging part. I’ve gotten a lot better.
Not necessarily because I promise less but because I focus on really, really connecting with up to 10 executives at every event.
By the time the event is over, we are on our way to being friends – which makes it a lot easier to follow through on any promises made.
- Reach out to those through email immediately after the event.
- The sooner you follow up, the more likely the prospect will remember you.
- Sum up your thoughts and tell them why it would be great to stay in touch.
- And even if you don’t see them as an immediate connection, just say thanks.
- Also, be sure to send an invite to connect on LinkedIn reminding them of your conversations.
Additional Benefits of Networking
A network creates referrals. Referrals are the hallmark of a growing business, and why not? Referred customers and clients are easier to close, they already see you in a favorable light, and trust your recommendations.
A strong network also builds word of mouth. Word of mouth remains one of the most powerful tools of growth. Turning your customers into advocates for your brand is a proven long-term strategy for acquiring new consumers at a low cost. Learn more about building your network and getting referrals.
Networking is an excellent platform for sharing your knowledge and ideas.
Develop a good business network and the network will offer many opportunities for a startup executive. Referrals, business partnerships, or client request for your services will be the result of a good network.
Remember that you’re not only gaining exposure to various people present in the event,
but you are establishing connections with their group of business networks too.
Business networking events are about connecting with other executives in your industry. All are there to have a good time, learn, and make new connections.
So relax and don’t forget to have some great fun while gaining valuable knowledge and connections!
Oh, if there’s anything I’m missing in this article, tell me! I’ll be happy to add it in.
We welcome your thoughts and suggestions on networking in the comments section.
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