“What people say and feel about you when you’ve left a room is precisely your job while you are in it.”

Rasheed Ogunlaru

 

Networking is a door opener. Every person can introduce us to new ideas, expand our knowledge and lead to new business adventures. However, it won’t happen if you don’t make an effort to connect. Business networking is like dating (no, really!). You have to talk to a lot of people before you find someone you truly connect with on a business level and have a professional spark. However, nothing is in vain. Every interaction with another human being can be a valuable lesson. It doesn’t have to be perfect. We connect best when we are at ease and truly enjoy learning about a new person. Networking is a two-way street where giving is as important as taking.

 

Be prepared

Know which industries and professions you are looking to connect with before attending events. Your time is valuable so being prepared with topics to discuss can help save time and keep you focused on your outcomes. Set your desired outcomes, and stick to them.

 

Strictly no Agenda

 

It’s about developing relationships so don’t try to close the deal. The aim is to meet valuable contacts. The objective is to introduce yourself and exchange business cards. Being genuine and not ‘business-tense’ goes a long way and makes a great first impression. Connecting is about building trust. You are seeding the seeds now, so avoid attacking unsuspecting potential business partners with punchy sales pitches or else they will run for the hills!

 

Give and Take

 

Let the person in front of you be your focus. This is also your time to evaluate if you have business common ground. Listen carefully and ask questions that will help you to understand their business perspective and background better. Being 100% present will help you to decide whether to pursue this professional connection later or not.

 

Be curious

 

When you are first meeting someone it pays off to be curious about them or their business. If you understand what they are looking for, you will be able to connect with them in the right way. Everyone loves genuine enthusiasm. It’s memorable. It’s in vogue.

 

Take Two Business Cards

 

This is ‘going the extra mile’ in networking terms. You want to make an impact and this is the best way to do it. Don’t take just one business card for yourself, but also take one for someone you know who may be interested in their business. The wow factor guaranteed.

 

Always follow up!

This is one of the most important aspects of networking. It shows integrity and that you are true to your word. Lots of business opportunities are lost because of an email or a call that was never made.

 

Make it personal

In your follow up include a sentence about something you have discussed in your conversation. It could be something they mentioned about their business that was unique, or it may have been about something they were doing at the weekend. It shows that you were listening, and again comes across better than asking for a favour or something specific.

 

Last but not LEAST- Smile

Can you remember the last time you choose someone to do business with because of his or her grumpy face?

 

Networking can boost your career – make the most of it!