We can sit around and wait for the phone to ring or the email inquiries to pile in, or we can get out there and do something about it. Think about scheduling a couple hours during the week to connect and network with new people. You never know where your next lead can come from and you never know which great friends you could end up making. Here are some tips to think about during your next networking event:
1) Bring Your Business Cards
This one really is a no-brainer. Show up with your business cards in hand and be ready to work the room. Take them out of your business card holder and have them handy in your pocket when chatting with new people. This way you are not fumbling around looking for your cards in your wallet or bottom of your bag. Count out how many you have ahead of time, so you can have an idea of how many you gave out at the end of the night. If you are new to your industry and do not have a business card, consider having some cheaply printed for you online via – Vista Print . They are fast, affordable and have professional designs that you can simply add your information on.
2) Collect Business Cards
When handing out all your shiny business cards, you will most likely receive many in return. Take a moment after the event to browse through the websites of the people you have just met. Make a point of sending an email to those who have made an impact on you, that you liked or can see yourself forging a partnership or even friendship with. If you are on Facebook, think about adding your new friends to your network or invite them to join your group or fan page.
3) Bring a Friendly & Positive Attitude
There is nothing worse than networking with an egomaniac who grills you about your business and then goes on about why he or she is so much better than you. Please don’t be this person. Bring a friendly and positive attitude with you to every event. You are a reflection of your brand and company. People do not want to remember you as rude, unfriendly or annoying. Think of yourselves as two people who can help and learn from each other. Be yourself and not some cheesy salesperson that you think you need to be. People love to meet other genuine people who are passionate about what they do. A positive attitude and openness to meet new people will get you very far.
4) Have an Elevator Speech
This really means, describe and talk about what you and your business do in the amount of time it takes to ride up the elevator. Have a pitch that is 15-30 seconds long that sums up your company or what you do in a nutshell. This is great to have when meeting large groups of people. Feel free to expand further if the other party seems interested, but do let them give you their ‘Elevator Speech’.
5) Find a Networking Group in Your Area
Log online and look for networking groups in your local area. Here are some suggestions of places to start looking:
• Find an association or regional meeting in your area of industry professionals or a social group you would like to join. Check out their upcoming events and make a point to get out there and participate.
• Self employed? Look up small business or entrepreneur groups on the web and on a site such as http://www.meetup.com/
• Look on http://www.facebook.com/ to see if a group exists for the kind of networking you would like to do
• Attend industry events and support each other at openings or celebration events
6) Create a Networking Group
Still can’t find a networking group in your area? Create one! Meetup.com or Facebook.com are probably the most useful for this. Create your group and blast all the industry professionals and like-minded people that you know to join in your local area. Once your group is created, organize a meet & greet or mid-week luncheon for everyone to network. If you are skeptical about networking, start small to build your confidence. It really does work!
My networking skills recently landed me a one-page editorial article with a colour photo in the Toronto Life Wedding Guide. I even met my current blogging partner, Wendy Kam via a meetup group I used to run for Toronto Work at Home Women. You never know who you are going to meet and how they will help you. I also advise on returning the favour and connecting other people you know on a regular-basis.
So how has networking helped you? Do you have a story to share?
Come network with us! The Hip & Urban Girl's Guide is hosting a networking event for women this Monday. We believe in connecting real women, with a great attitude in the real world. Some of us are small business owners, some of us are urban professionals. Regardless, our goal is to create fun experiences offline and to meet new friends. For more details, please check out the blog entry here.