New to networking? Or maybe not new, but looking for ways to make your networking more effective? Either way, you’re in the right place!

Networking can be a valuable and even enjoyable part of your marketing and your business plan. But without knowing the right approach, your networking efforts can turn out frustrating and counterproductive.

There are a few keys principles to networking that will always serve you well, whether you are a brand new business owner or sales associate, or a veteran CEO.

Show Up Prepared

In a way, every interaction at a networking event is like a mini interview. While this idea might add to your nerves, you can actually use this perspective to boost your confidence by setting yourself up to be prepared. There are three key things to prepare ahead:

  • Your elevator speech. This is a 5-20 second explanation of what you do and why it matters. Practice this on people you know and get their feedback on making it clearer and more interesting. Social gatherings are an excellent place to gather further feedback on your elevator pitch, because people are going to ask what you do, but they are primarily there to enjoy themselves. If what you say is boring or unclear, their reaction is going to let you know: glazed eyes, changing the topic, looking around for somewhere else to be. Keep watching people’s reactions every time you tell them what you do, and you will be able to hone your elevator speech until you start hearing those magic words, “Tell me more!”
  • Business cards. While electronic communication may seem like it has made business cards irrelevant, most people in the business world still expect a professional business card. Your card can also be a great way to express your unique persona in a professional way.
  • Your “extrovert hat.” At many networking events, there is not a host or greeter to welcome you and introduce you to others. Once you check in, expect to be on your own. Be prepared to walk up to someone friendly-looking, introduce yourself, and find out something about them—and then potentially do all that again with another person or two.

    If this sounds terrifying, consider bringing a friend, especially if you have one with networking experience. Just make sure you work together to meet new people instead of taking the easy route and just talking to each other.

Connect, Don’t Sell

Networking is a long game. If you walk in the door expecting to make a sale, you are going to be disappointed and actually miss the real goal of networking: making connections. You may talk to five people and find out that none of them have any interest in your product or service, but what you have done is begun to make them part of your network. Make connections by:

  • Getting to know people. Find out what they do, and who their target market or favorite client is.
  • Thinking about potential referrals. Do you know someone who needs the product or service offered by your new connection? Can you connect them?
  • Following up. If you have a referral for them, an article or resource that would be of interest to them, or just think it would benefit you both to get together for networking one-on-one, reach out—so make sure you get their business card.

For a more in-depth exploration of how to leverage your network effectively, check out our article “Making the Most of Your Network (and What NOT to Do).”

Be Professional

First impressions really do matter. So do second and third impressions. When you are friendly and approachable, and present yourself with professional clothing, manners, and language, you not only make yourself pleasant to be around, but you are also sending the message that you are easy to work with and will do professional work.

For some great tips on professional etiquette, you might enjoy the speaker notes from our February 2020 WIN Luncheon.

Do you have questions about getting started with networking? Tips you would like to share for any new networkers out there? Let us know in the comments!