the art of networking

For lots of people, business networking at events ranks up there with public speaking – it can feel uncomfortable. After all, to do it right, you’ve got to engage with a roomful of people you don’t know.

But what if there were some simple steps you could take to create an enjoyable and successful networking experience? There are and here is how you can do it:

Take the focus off of you.
Leave any insecurities you have about yourself being accepted at the door. Go in there focused on “getting to meet” the people in the room and you’ll forget about yourself. This little attitude adjustment will be the key to opening the door to conversations.

Look for opportunities to engage in conversation.
When you canvas the room, look for people standing alone or in small groups who are all facing forward. These are the easiest to approach and any one standing alone will appreciate your engagement.

Ask about them and what they do.
Introduce yourself with a firm handshake and a warm smile. Ask them about their work and what they do. Then share what it is you do and a little about yourself. With every person I meet, my world gets a little bigger and I get a little smarter.

Move about the cabin.
Make it your goal to meet people. After all, that’s the whole point of networking. Stay standing and get walking. I’ve witnessed people, including new business owners anxious to meet new prospects who never left their spot all evening. It’s only going to happen if you make it happen.

Converse, don’t sell.
This isn’t the place to make the sell. It’s the place to make the connection that could lead to the sell. While you’re talking, infuse your personality, but always speak professionally and with sincerity. Yesterday, at a networking event I met Joe, a business development manager. It turns out that he raises Thoroughbred horses on a ranch in Arizona. Our conversation was entertaining and memorable.

Follow up.
You’ve got their business card and they have yours. Be sure to follow-up within 48 hours with a phone call or email. Let them know how good it was to meet them and request a meeting to continue the conversation.

Networking is an art. It’s the kind of social engagement that creates lasting and successful relationships. Your future business associates and friends are waiting. Now it’s time to get out there and meet them!

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