As a business professional, you bring different talents and personalities to the table when you meet people. However, not everyone has an outgoing personality and sometimes feel lost when faced with networking (especially amongst large groups of people). However, these easy steps will help you successfully network at social functions and business events.
o Keep it real – The main ingredient to successful networking is to be genuine and authentic. People can spot a fake immediately. The only way to build trust and rapport is to keep it real and be honest.
o Prioritize your networking goals – Ask yourself what you want to accomplish when you network in particular groups. Some networking groups lean towards education/learning purposes. Define what meetings/groups will help you achieve your particular business and/or networking goals.
o Know your business inside and out – Have a clear understanding of your business and how your services and products help others. You need to articulate clearly what sets your business/company apart from your competitors. This is very important in referral-based businesses such as real estate. This is essential when you belong to a new group and have to give your “30 second” introduction about your business.
o Volunteer for organizations – Volunteering for a position in a networking group is a great way to become involved. It’s also a great way to give back to a group/organization that has helped you, or has helped the community.
o Visit networking groups that catch your interest – You don’t have to join every group, but it helps to visit groups to see if they are a good match. If you have friends or colleagues who belong to certain groups you like, ask them if you can be their guest at the next meeting. When you visit groups, ask yourself the following questions: Is the group supportive? Does it fit your industry/business scope?
o Ask open-ended questions during meetings – A key trick during group meetings is to ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions address the following: “who, what, when, why and how.” These questions also engage other group members in a lively discussion (as opposed to just asking yes or no questions). It also makes group members feel important, and shows you are really interested in their opinions and feedback.
o Become a viable resource for others in your group – Offer suggestions, advice and be looked upon as a viable, informative resource in your networking group. When people look to you as an expert in your field, you become more visible and they will turn to you for help (which equates to more referrals and business in the future).
o Always follow through on referrals – No matter how busy you are, it’s important to follow through quickly and efficiently when you receive referrals from other group members. Remember that your actions are a direct reflection of the person who gave you the referral – don’t let that person down. It’s also seen as professional courtesy and respect, and further builds your credibility as a member of your business networking group.