By Betty Clark, Vice Chair of Membership Engagement at the Gahanna Area Chamber of Commerce
You hear your boss say the words that you dread: “I can’t go, so you’ll have to attend tonight’s networking event by yourself.” Instead of agonizing over attending, here are some tips to make the event enjoyable and a networking success.
It’s time to play the game! First, put on a name tag. This helps people introduce themselves to you and helps them remember your name. Plus it’s free advertising for you and your company.
When you enter the room, don’t wait for someone to approach you – and drop those folded arms – a big sign that you’re not interested in being there. Ask easy questions. Smile. Listen to the response. Listening is a very good skill. No need to hijack the conversation. People are more likely to do business with people whose company they enjoy.
Networking is about building relationships. There’s no need to go into sales mode. Keep the conversation easy, fun and light. If someone asks about a product, give them a short sale and get their business card to continue the conversation at another time. And do follow-up! It’s always frustrating when someone says they’ll contact you and you never hear from them. That’s a big ding in your reputation too.
Be a resource for those you meet. Take the leap and meet with people who are in a different field than you or may be younger or older. This will give you a whole new perspective on something you didn’t think about! Learn from the experiences of others. But it also lends itself to a fun fact to know and tell.
Always have business cards on you. It also a good place to keep notes. When you receive a business card, mark the date, event, and a short note about the person. This will help you later on when you need a contact. Plus it makes locating the right person on LinkedIn.
Still don’t like networking events? A good place to get comfortable and pick up some networking skills, not to mention a learning experience, is in volunteering. Take for example the Gahanna Area Chamber of Commerce! Volunteering on a committee is a wonderful opportunity to keep busy, talk to others about your organization, the task at hand, etc. It also comes with the added bonus of doing something for others. In the end, the more you practice the more comfortable you’ll become. The more comfortable you become, the more successful you’ll be.
So get out there and get your game on!