The Norwich Kitty Networking Group have put together some tips for you to get the most out of your networking membership. We make the introductions easy for you with our unique ‘30 words’ system, from there you know exactly who everyone is in the room and the networking more relaxed afterwards.
1. Always take your business cards.
The Norwich Kitty Networking Group provide you with a lanyard when you sign up for a full membership, so there is no excuse for you not to have your business card to hand easily. Your business card is the fundamental necessity when networking. Because offering a business card is a trade, you should give one and get one in return. Your business card will be how your contacts remember you the next day.
2. Always start with a memorable handshake.
People make an instant judgement from a handshake. When you first meet your fellow networker make sure your handshake is firm and you give a steady gaze full in the eye. This will promote you as an authoritative and confident person, someone that people want to do business with. In fact, people will remember you for years to come literally from your handshake. Oh, and the shoes, always try and wear nice shoes!
3. Have your opening introduction ready.
Have a short, concise version that you can share easily about what you do and where you work, who your clients are and what your goals are. If possible, give a sense not only of what you do but who you are. Practice it, if necessary. No smart networker loves a rambler, give yourself 90 seconds maximum.
Use ‘what’s your story’ as an ice-breaker and give other people time to share theirs. All the time, be asking yourself: ‘what can I offer this person?’.. Perhaps you can put them in touch with someone who’d be useful and appreciate that this might not always be you. You are building a trust and a relationship. Networking is not all about going in for the kill.
5. Everyone is in the same boat.
Don’t be afraid to speak to people no matter who they are, how they look and what they do. Chances are that they are just as nervous as you are about attending a networking event. You may look at someone and think “they’d never be interested in talking to me”. Chance is they are be thinking exactly the same as you! Everyone is in the room because they want to network, want to meet new businesses, want to expand their circle. Simply take a deep breath, introduce yourself and you never know where it might lead to. That is the power of networking.
6. Have a diverse network, not a large one.
If you only network inside your industry or social group, it’s easy to become insular. Go to work ‘mixers’ and social events, yes, but also attend events for your chosen professional body. Maybe even attend designated networking events organised by people who specialize in putting people together. The Norwich Kitty Networking Group usually meets with 20 – 30 people in the room, all from different industry sectors, and these people will naturally know other people in business.
7. Make sure that you log your contacts the next day.
We estimate that at least half the people who exchange business cards never look at them again. In fact, that’s probably a vast underestimate! Occasionally they’ll feng shui their pockets, wallets, handbags – by which time they can’t remember who that person was, or why they wanted that contact for in the first place. Pre-schedule 30 minutes in your diary the morning after a networking event to follow up on contacts and add people to your address book, recording as much detail as possible. Maybe write on the back of that card what that person does, or what you promised to do for them. Add them to your LinkedIn network, twitter and any other social media platforms you operate on.
8. Follow up.
We can almost guarantee you’re going to think this is taking things too far. Follow up the next day with an email to each member you met at the night before’s Norwich Kitty Networking Group meeting. Just a brief email saying ‘it was great to meet you at the Norwich Kitty Networking Group last night and speak to you about your business and mine, if there is anything that my business can do for you it would be great to meet for a coffee and a chat’. Something non pushy and just leaving it out there for your business contact to re-visit later. Of course if you’ve sorted some possible work out, following it up the next day is a must.
9. Don’t ‘only connect’.
Build solid relationships. Don’t expect overnight miracles from networking. It takes time for people to develop confidence in you and you need to invest in those relationships. Try connecting with them on a level other than business – as humans, we always bond through shared interests, no matter what they are. You don’t need to be BFFs – but you should seem three-dimensional. Perhaps there are other events you could attend together?
10. Networking isn’t a competition.
It’s not like the person who dies with the biggest collection of business cards wins. Networking should be about building real relationships, actively maintaining them – and above all, giving as much as you take.
Then, you never know, you may even find you get to like, rather than dread it.