Another Entrepreneurship Project of the  Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University

Networking Know-how: Meet and Greet with Confidence and Poise!

For start-ups (and well-established businesses)
it’s important to build your network and meet new people each and every day. The art of networking is something that anyone can excel at; even the introverts of the world! Making new contacts and networking is one of the most valuable things that a person can do.

Effective networking does not involve collecting the most business cards at the event—it is about making meaningful connections with others. Don’t sell your business; find out more about the people you meet – who they are, what they do – and discover ways that you can help them (and not by selling them your product/service). If you can offer value in a business relationship, your contacts will remember that. Make connections that are built on trust and value.

Colleen DeBaise, director of special projects at Entrepreneur.com and Geri Stengel, founder of Ventureneer, offer helpful tips and advice that will help you to prepare for a great networking event:

Arrive on time: It may be intimidating to be one of the first people to arrive at a networking event, but it will help you to have time to meet more people; if you arrive late it’s harder to find people who are not already engaged in a conversation; plus, if you spend more time at the event, you will make more connections!

Know your elevator pitch: It’s important to practice your elevator pitch so you can clearly define who you are and what you do in under 90 seconds; it’s also important to remember not to sell your business in this pitch — the goal is to give information about what you do and who you are without being pushy; you may want to try practicing with a friend or colleague to get comfortable with the language you’re using

Ask questions: To get to know the person you’re speaking with, be sure to ask questions that will engage — you can start by asking a person why they decided to attend the event; remember to be an attentive listener — try to remember names, important business information and offer advice or suggestions when you can

Do not sell: No one likes to be ‘sold to’ at a networking event; networking is about relationship-building and offering value; people are more likely to do business with a person they trust and like; it is certainly acceptable to collect cards and talk about your business, but do not try to get a new customer out of a casual conversation

Smile: When you smile, you show that you care; a smile also conveys enthusiasm not only about what you’re talking about, but also shows that you’re genuinely interested in what another person is saying to you

Bring business cards: It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to bring plenty of business cards to a networking event; keep your business cards handy (in a pocket or a card holder you can easily access; this will help you to remember who you’ve met (and vice versa) and will allow for easy follow-up after the event

Follow up: When ending a conversation, find out your contact’s preferred method of communication and be sure to follow up in the next few days; after you end a conversation, you may want to make notes on the back of that person’s business card (what your conversation was about, how you can help them with something), which will prepare you for a targeted, helpful follow-up offering valuable information to your new contact

With all of the technology and social media as forums to connect, it can be intimidating for a small business owner or solo entrepreneur to meet new connections face-to-face. Remember, everyone else is there for the same reason: to make new, valuable connections. It’s easy to be a networking rock star — just be yourself (and don’t try to sell anything)!

Find out even more tips and tricks to prepare you for your next networking session by visiting: http://www.entrepreneur.com/blog/223468 and http://www.inc.com/geri-stengel/women-owners-7-tips-for-growing-your-network.html.

What are your tips for effective networking? How do you make meaningful connections when you meet someone new who may eventually be a client or colleague?

Thanks for reading, and until next time… stay WISE!

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