Do you find it challenging to network? It can be downright intimidating to break into a crowd where you don't know a soul, and make small talk with strangers. But the potential for making good contacts at networking events is so high that it's worth taking the time and effort to hone your networking skills.
Here are 5 steps to prepare for a networking event, so your time will pay off.
1. Have a goal for the event. Woody Allen said: 80% of success is just showing up, but at a business event this isn't true. If you spend the evening chatting with a friend, gobble down some hors d'oeuvres and then leave, you won't get any new business. Instead, set a goal to measure your success. This might be to meet three potential clients, touch base with a contact, build on a relationship with someone, or find a new supplier.
2. Do your homework. Find out who will be there by asking the host or hostess, or requesting a list of attendees. The very prospects you have been trying to contact may be on the list. Meeting these prospects in person is far better than playing telephone tag or making cold calls. You will now have a personal connection.
3. Plan how you will approach the people you want to meet. Prepare topics of interest, brush up on industry events, and learn about their company. Your new acquaintances will be impressed by your interest and knowledge.
4. Create a short introduction for yourself that can include some personal, as well as business information. Provide enough information to get the conversation going. Hone and practice your introduction so you sound polished and professional.
5. Have your business cards handy, and remember where they are. Writing your name on a cocktail napkin or scrap of paper won't leave a good impression, and it will make it hard for people to follow up with you.
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From Lynda Goldman, author of How to Make a Million Dollar First Impression