Attending a networking event is a must when you want to put your business on the map. No matter how many likes you get on Facebook or how many emails you send out to potential investors, there’s nothing quite like getting out there and showcasing your brand in person.
If you’re new to the realm of networking, the whole concept can seem a little alien. The thought of approaching total strangers, handing them your business card and schmoozing with them for however long can be enough to make you quit before you’ve started! But we’re here to tell you not to sweat it!
With the following guide, you’ll see that promoting your business at a networking event is not as scary as you think and that in fact, it can be a breeze. With the right approach and a good conversation starter, you’ll be well on your way to squashing those first-time nerves and becoming a seasoned pro in no time.
Make a Move
When you first arrive at a networking event, by all means take some time to assess the room, just don’t leave it too long before you make your first move. If you’re worried about how acceptable it is to just walk right up to someone and introduce yourself, stop worrying; that’s exactly what you should be doing! It’s worth remembering that everyone’s in the same boat, all trying to make a strong first impression, so why not join the ranks and get in on the action?
Break the Ice
Once you’ve made your initial introductions, try and keep the conversations flowing with a few tried and tested ice-breakers. ‘What brings you here?’ ‘Where have you travelled from today?’ ‘How’ve you been enjoying this glorious weather?’ A great tip is to come up with a couple of general interest topics beforehand, along with three or four questions that will get people talking. By finding common ground and opening up the conversation, it’s likely that your personality and passion for what you do will start to shine through, and the more authentic you come across, the better chance you’ll have of making a memorable impression.
Work the Room
It’s important to use networking events to your advantage, so take the opportunity to spread your wings and talk to as many people as you can. If you’re unsure of how to work the room effectively, the trick is knowing who to give your time to. You won’t connect with everyone, so when you feel that the conversation is flailing or that they aren’t really interested in what you have to offer, pick up and politely move on. Be present with every new encounter, trust your gut and remember to take the business card of anyone who captures your attention. These people might become valuable contacts so lock down their details while you can!
Forget the Sales Pitch
It’s tempting to sneak in the odd generic sales pitch, but the best way to ensure that people aren’t rolling their eyes behind your back is to leave the sales-speak at home. Instead, ask a lot of great questions and focus on how your service or knowledge can help others. If you let the conversation flow naturally, you’re much more likely to build a rapport.
This might be an obvious one, but make sure your body language doesn’t give off the wrong impression. Steer clear of those tell-tale ‘don’t talk to me’ signs such as crossing your arms across your chest, slouching or frowning. It might feel a bit exhausting, especially if it’s been a long day, but it helps to be aware of the vibe you’re giving off. No one wants to do business with someone who looks like they don’t want to be there! When you’re talking to someone, smile, maintain eye contact and really listen to what they have to say. If you seem confident and enthusiastic about your field, people will size you up as interesting and approachable, which opens up the door to talk business.
The most important thing to remember is that networking is a two-way affair. By offering your own support and service, you’ll be getting the support of others in return. If you keep this in mind and follow our handy tips, you should be well-equipped to step into the networking ring. But just in case you’re still feeling nervous- find the bar or head for the free food! There’s no better place for social interaction and at the very least you’ll get something tasty out of it!