Do you remember the first time you went to a networking event? I remember my first networking event. I walked into a room with what seemed like a million people engaged in conversations. Let’s just say I was overwhelmed. I was unsure how to start a conversation. The goal of networking is to create strong connections and relationships with individuals at all levels, career stages, and fields. Everyone comes to a networking event wanting something. It could be referrals, business growth, a new job or leads. There are pros and cons to networking and we will explore those later. Some participants have walked out happy with the results from networking, and others have walked out disappointed stating networking is not for them or even a waste of time. However, before you S.P.E.A.K. you should consider these tips for a successful approach to any networking event.
Start networking before it’s needed. Those that have been networking for a while will be able to sense the desperation in your voice of trying to make a connection. For example, if you are thinking about changing your career in six months to a year, why not start the networking process early in building genuine relationships? According to networking statistics in 2017, 85% of jobs are filled through networking, and 72 % of people say their impressions are impacted by how someone appears and their handshake. Who knew a handshake could have so much impact?!
You should always have a Plan in place before attending a networking event. Know your skill sets, what type of people you want to connect with, and how many people you want to connect with based on what you are looking for. What do you want to talk about? You should have a clear picture of your discussion topics for the event. Let's not forget you have a lot to offer to your new connections, so make sure you share with them how you can help them as well. Networking is a two-way street.
Each person you Engage with is important. Remember networking is not all about you, you have to listen and ask questions so you can get to know them. Don’t dismiss someone based on their “title”; the secretary you did or did not speak to could have a perfect connection with someone who could take you or your business to next level (that million dollar connection….lol) but you wouldn't know if you dismissed them based on their title. According to face-to-face statistics, almost 100% of people say this is essential for long-term business relationships. The average company would lose 17% of their profits if they eliminated business travels.
Define exactly what you want to Achieve from each networking event you attend. This will depend based on the needs of your business. You can start by asking yourself what are your current challenges? What challenges may you face in the future? This will assist you in finding the connections that can assist you with those challenges. I posted this question on social media: Do you attend networking events? Why or why not? The response, “Yes, to meet new people, expand my brand and learn techniques from other successful business owners!” and “Yes, to grow connections and for potential leads.” It doesn’t matter how you answer the question the result is still the same.
Keep up with your industry; you can do this by attending industry events, training sessions and reading. You may also have colleagues in the same industry. Networking can always keep you up to date. By keeping up with your industry, you will reap the benefits in the long run.