Whether you are a job seeker looking for something new or a business owner looking to expand or find new contacts, it can pay to network.
There is no need to be shy about networking – it is a great way to make new connections that could turn out to be useful in your professional life or simply expand your social circle. It really is as much about who you know as what you know.
Look online for local events that you could attend. Sites like Buckinghamshire Business First list upcoming networking events as well as useful workshops and other useful meetings. And FindNetworkingEvents.com lists events by region.
Do your homework. Check out in advance who might be attending the event through social media and from any itinerary list that may be published in advance – that way, you can identify who you would like to introduce yourself to and plan what you would like to say and any questions you would like to ask.
Have some business cards at the ready. Make sure that your business cards are up-to-date and that you have plenty to take with you so that you don’t run out or scrabble about in your jacket pocket/bottom of your hand bag for the last one.
Prepare your elevator pitch! Make sure that you practice a pitch that encapsulates who you are, what you do and what you’re looking for – the trick is not to sound too robotic or repetitive – it needs to be part of your natural speech yet concise enough to get your message across quickly.
Dress to impress. Make sure that you plan your outfit in advance and that it is suitable for the occasion and follows any prescribed dress code – you don’t want to turn up to a Black Tie event in jeans.
Think about your body language. If you’re new to all this, try not to look nervous. A smile goes a long way – stand with an open stance, smile and don’t cross your arms – all these things will make you look more approachable. Think confident, shake hands and show an interest in others and you will be fine.
Ask questions. No-one wants to be bored listening to someone go on and on about themselves. Ask questions of whoever you are speaking too and find some common ground to help build a natural rapport. Ask if there is any way that you could help them by finding out what they are all about – they are more likely to remember you after the event if you can benefit them in some way.
Follow up. Remember to follow up on any conversations that you have and new contacts that you make (might help to make notes on business cards at the actual event so you don’t forget!). Don’t leave it too long and if said you could help, make sure that you do just that. Connect with any new contacts via LinkedIn, email or just call them.