One of the beauties of networking is the endless possibilities for you and your business.
After mastering your interpersonal skills, networking is an effective way to unlock untapped business opportunities and make important connections for now and for the future.
As the verb ‘networking’ suggests, your actions need to have the end goal in mind to establish a substantial network between you, your company and other likeminded business people who have similar business goals. With this idea in mind, networking should not be talking to as many people as you possibly can, just for the sake of it. It should be the act of reaching to the right people who can support or be a part of what you would like to achieve.
The Perfect Handshake
I’m not going to give you cliché pieces of advice such as ‘make a good first impression’, and telling you to do your research, etc. My advice to you will be all about the how. Making an unforgettable first impression for example requires a superior handshake. A firm and welcoming handshake screams confidence and professionalism. Eye contact is also key. At least 55% of human interaction is non-verbal and is just as important as spoken communication. Although a handshake may seem like an irrelevant formality in the world of LinkedIn and professional social media, it is overly underestimated. It is a simple sign of respect for your potential new business partner, colleague, sponsor, so do all you can to show you mean business, as well as speak it.
To further this positive good initial impression, body language is key. This is your opportunity to say something before you even properly introduce yourself and your business, or business plan. Uncrossed arms, a smile, pulled back shoulders and taking up the space naturally rather than introverted limbs can say more than you think.
The All Important Opening Line
Once you have shown you are a respectable businesswoman, it is time to use words to say you are. This all begins with an intriguing opening line. This could be something along the lines of ‘what do you do?” but how often is that one thrown around? Why not appeal to someone’s larger business goals and career aspirations. Open with something like “what’s your story?” or “what brought you here today?” “What drives you?” is also a good one.
Being genuine is key. In a business world full of strong sycophantic and verbose characters, the key to standing out is to strip it all back and just be authentic to you and your brand. You can’t fake a true interest in someone and any business person worth their salt should be able to sense a phony from a passionate individual. Ask specific questions, and build up a relationship with someone rather than expecting it to blossom overnight.
Your Elevator Pitch
This one may sound a bit obvious but, nailing your elevator pitch, and having a concise version of it is essential. No one loves a rambler. Practice if you need to. Dut try not to go over 90 seconds. You may lose people along the way if you’re not focussed enough.
The Contact Database
Now for the important part. Many of us stress and overstress the networking event, but don’t give the aftermath enough thought. One of the reasons you were networking in the first place is to make long lasting and lucrative connections, correct?
In that case, make sure you log those all-important contacts, rather than throwing that stack of business cards into your handbag to gather dust for eternity. Take half an hour the night of or day after the networking event, while the conversations, names and faces are all fresh in your memory, and go through each of the names you have collected, and add them to an address book, add them on LinkedIn or something similar. Or just write all the details you remember about a person on the back of their business card, and reach out to them on LinkedIn in the upcoming week. That way you have name to face information about each of your new contacts, and you limit risk of being caught out in the future. No one can remember every single person they meet, after all.
Now, no matter how daunting networking may seem, practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the less nerve-wracking it’ll be. And don’t forget, networking in any capacity is the single most effective way of building personal brand and growing your business. So why not start those all-important conversations and see what you can achieve?
Chloe Hashemi is the Editorial Executive for Camm & Hooper, who host an array of business and other prestigious events at their Central London Venues, Banking Hall, Tanner Warehouse and Victorian Bath House.