Let's face it; everything in business has something to do with relationships. So my question…
How to Survive in the Brave New World of ‘Networking 2.0’
Remember the days of structured networking events?
You know? Where you’d arrive at your venue, mingle with a group of people you barely knew, hand out as many business cards as you could, drink cheap cask wine, eat a couple of party pies and go home? Well, I’m happy to say that style of networking is dead.
If I look at the last few events I’ve been to the common thread is, people are a lot more selective about where they are spending their time and energy.
In order to embrace ‘Networking 2.0’ (as I call it), I’ve compiled a list of the new do’s and don’ts for this brave new world:
Do some homework first.
Take a few moments to do your due diligence on the event. If the venue, attendees or location doesn’t fit your ideal customer, you can probably find something better to do with your time and money.
Research the guest list.
Most events these days are promoted somewhere on social media. Facebook, MeetUp, LinkedIn, wherever they show up you will usually have the opportunity to get a feel for who is likely to be in the room.
Do a little research on the guest list and try to go into the event with between one to three names on your ‘hit list’. It’ll save you wandering around like a deer in the headlights.
Take a hint.
Have you ever been to a business function where you see some poor person pinned against a wall, eyes darting around the room, looking for the quickest escape route? Meanwhile, the person talking ‘at’ them appears oblivious to their plight. Don’t do that!
Sure, be engaging and have a conversation but if you can see your intended is wishing they were anywhere else, then let them go.
It’s not about you.
A sure-fire way to have great conversations and be remembered from any business event is to ask lots of questions of the people you’re talking to. I don’t mean stalkerish kinds of questions, I mean, genuine business-related questions.
If you’re stumped, I find, “Why did you get into your business?”, is something that opens a great conversation to find out about the ‘real’ person.
You’re not speed dating.
Do not be that person who runs around the room handing out as many business cards as they possibly can, without stopping to talk or make eye contact. Guaranteed your cards will end up in the bin and you will be spoken about in a less than complimentary manner. Instead, aim to make two to three solid connections per event with the potential to continue the chat.
If I meet someone I think would be a good potential customer or referral base I will say something like, “I see we have a lot of potential synergies in our businesses, and I don’t want to take up all of your time now. Is it ok if I reach out in the next week to schedule a coffee?” I’m yet to have anyone turn me down on a follow-up chat.
Leave the business cards at home.
Sounds counter-intuitive but I’ve found that by leaving my cards at home I’m the one walking away with everyone’s details. It allows me to control the flow of the conversation and makes me responsible for following up. I don’t do this all the time, but if it’s someone I’d really like to follow up with, then I always make sure I have their details before we part ways.
So, you see, the days of the network scattergun approach are dead. Your focus now should be on building relationships. Much like in the dating world, take your time to get to know the people in your business circle. Keep going back to the events, make a point of going up to them at each event and saying, “Hi.” Go for a coffee, explore what possible synergies your businesses may have and allow for a natural flow to occur.
You’ll find ‘Networking 2.0’ far more fruitful and enjoyable if you do.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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