- A feature article by Amit Mishra, Eight India
Networking is a major part of every professional’s life, and not only for people in sales and marketing.
Networking events are the best places to meet like-minded people and build business relations. Despite what many people think, they’re not just about starting conversations with strangers and collecting business cards and adding Friends to your Facebook.
Networking events are about charting a course in your industry.
Cities like New Delhi and Mumbai see around 20–30 major networking events each quarter. You need to find the relevant ones suited to your industry type and your interests.
Who you know can help your career or business succeed. This is so true.
A study by Harvard, Stanford, and the Carnegie Foundation found that 85% of a person’s success is based on his or her “soft skills” (people skills, social skills, communication skills, etc.). That’s an amazing number when you consider it’s basically not covered in formal education.
So, plan ahead and think about how to make the most of a networking event. Here are some pointers I’ve learnt over the years.
What to Do at Networking Events
Research Before You Go
Before you go, find out about who’s attending, the host, the sponsor, the venue, the discussion and speech topics. Imagine how impressed someone will be if they meet you for the first time and you’re able to chat about their recent work and contributions.
People with the hosting organisation will also greatly appreciate your efforts to learn about their aims. They put a lot of work into these events.
Reach Out in Advance
Selena Soo, a publicity and business strategist for authors and coaches says, “No need to wait for the event to start connecting.”
You can find out their details through their LinkedIn profiles. This lets you learn the basics about them. You can even try and connect with them and start a dialogue.
Let them know you’re looking forward to chatting with them in person. That way, it’s more like catching up with a friend when you finally meet them face-to-face.
Dress to Impress
A well-dressed person always draws attention. Check out the pictures of previous such events to know how people dress, if it’s not mentioned in the invitation. Then, dress at the top of that category.
For men, if it’s “casual,” wear a smart button-down shirt, nice jeans, some sharp sneakers or well-polished brogues. If it’s a suit-and-tie affair, dress like a CEO.
For women, again, dress for the top of the category, though you have a bit more latitude to make a statement. As I’m a guy, I’ll leave that up to your interpretation.
Make a Great First Impression
Your clothes or shoes help make a strong impression, and your body language adds to that. Stand up straight, make friendly eye contact. Smile and shake hands with people while making your introduction. Don’t crush their hand either; a firm shake is fine for men or women.
Ask interested questions like, “What brought you to this event?” and “What do you think about the speaker?” and “What sorts of things are you working on these days?” This sets you apart from the usual “What do you do? … Where are you from?” routine. Show that you’re confident, self-assured, and interested in learning about others.
Hone Your Elevator Pitch
Develop an elevator pitch that quickly explains what you do and who you are. Compile your talking points and keep it concise (no more than around 45 seconds) to make it interesting and memorable.
This works wonders when there are individuals you’re hoping to meet and connect with. And not just at the networking event – anywhere! Practice it beforehand and have a couple of variations depending on the people you’ll be speaking with; men, women, young, older, different industries, etc. Practice it until it becomes second nature.
Social media connections may be the popular way to keep in touch these days. But they lack substance and bunch you among that hundreds or thousands of other connections. Always bring your business cards.
This a classy and classic tradition.
Give a card and get a card, or at least the person’s full contact info. Apps like Eight comes handy to manage the new connections you make. Just scan in the card and leave yourself some notes. You can also use it to quickly swap info if you’ve run out of cards.
Mix and Mingle
Don’t you hate it when someone you just met doesn’t remember your name? This usually happens because they weren’t paying attention. Maybe you’ve do the same. A person’s name is music to their ears.
When you meet someone, repeat their name and tell them you’re glad to meet them. Use their name to keep their attention and to reinforce your memory. Use it when you’re making a point. Move around to meet others you are interested in getting to know, and if you bump into some you already met… use their name!
A silly but effective way to remember a name is to associate their name with something similar (Lakshmi = lock and key, Ravi = ravioli). Then when you see them, think of the object.
True connections are so much more than small talk. Instead of just focusing on your own wants, make an effort to truly connect with others. And help them further connect with those they may want to know.
Be a connector.
For instance, if you find someone is having an event and needs a photographer, you might introduce them with someone you’ve already met at the event or know from your network. This shows you’re a giving person and a valuable resource. People who know people are always in need, and always appreciated. You’ll also probably find yourself being introduced to many more people.
Quality Over Quantity
Create connections that have value for both parties. You need not speak with everyone in the room, and if you’re more introverted that may really hard to do. Instead, focus on people to whom you can give value first, and get value from second.
Find how you can help them and do your best. Give before you take. Focus on each interaction. Aim to be the one-person people will remember talking to, instead of being the social butterfly.
Keep in Touch
Social platforms and contact apps are particularly useful after the event is over, too. Connect with people you’d like to continue networking with. Rather than a generic “It was great to meet you…” send them a note recalling something specific from your conversation with them. This deepens your connection and makes your memorable.
I always prioritise face-to-face networking. This is because it builds real, human trust.
As much as we have this surplus of technology, people meeting people is when things really happen. It’s how we can connect so much more deeply than by phone or text. and what people’s bodies are “saying.” And do be mindful of culture as well. Indians, Americans, and Japanese, for instance, all express themselves in various degrees of emotion and with different movements and words.
A Japanese person’s “yes” doesn’t always mean “yes.” It can just mean, “I’m listening.” An American may say they’re “Awesome!” but their eyes and posture tell a different story.
When we can physically share space, it’s truly a two-way conversation and the level of interaction is reinforced.
My take on networking events is that they help create real and reliable connections, which can turn out to be cooperative, productive, and even profitable. So, get out there and seek to build lasting relations.
Look at your connections as long-term fixed deposits and invest in them. You’ll definitely get results.
Finally, if you believe in the power of face-to-face meetings and always want to stay connected with your offline contacts, you should use Eight, just like I do.