I’ve often heard people say that the most difficult things to do when trying to market their company are networking and marketing themselves. We’ll save the self-promotion tips for a future post and focus now on networking, something that’s easy for some people, but scary for others. There is no science on how to network, but I have gathered some tips from my experiences.
Probably the most difficult thing to overcome is timidity. But being at a networking event is an icebreaker in itself. Everyone is there for the same reasons you are, and there are people who want to hear what you have to say. The best way to get to the point and avoid awkward greetings is to ask, “What brings you here?”
Make sure you go to networking scenarios that are relevant to you and your company. The more relevant the subject and crowd, the easier it will be to strike up conversation and ultimately sell yourself and your company.
Another piece of advice on successful networking is to NOT attend with a friend or coworker. If you already have someone to talk to, you won’t make as much of an effort to initiate conversations with other people. Networking alone is most effective. Always introduce yourself to as many people as you can – you’ll probably run into them again, especially if they are industry-specific or geographically concentrated networkers. Even if you simply say hello and exchange a business card, next time it will be easier for both of you to start a conversation.
Always dress professionally and don’t forget your business cards. As soon as you sit down at a table, pass out your card to everyone at the table. The first thing this will do is start a conversation. Also, people tend to remember things they read better than things they hear. Once they read your name on the business card, you’ll be more likely recognizable the second time around.