In the New York area, fall is the time where people stop thinking about vacation, get back to the grind, and you all the sudden find yourself not only attending, but hosting several events.
For example, as I type this I'm at BizTechDay in New York, in another few months I'll be attending NY XPO, and that's followed by New York Entrepreneur Week. In addition, OPEN just finished the New York Times Small Business event, the U.S. Chamber has a big event, and next will be the Small Business Summit coming up next year.
What about your city? I'm sure there are dozens of events happening every day. If you think about all the meet-ups, that's only scratching the surface.
What's common about all of these events is networking. Although some of you network very well, there are still many business professionals who I see at events who are either alone or do not know how to successfully network. Here are seven tips on how to ensure that when you leave your next event, you are able to get at least one person who can help advance your business:
Read about the event ahead of time
Why go to an event and not have a very good idea of who is speaking, what they are speaking about, and who is going? As events link to Facebook and other social media outlets you can see who is coming, so check it out! This will enable you to have useful "intelligence" about the event before you go.
Bring Business Cards
Why is it that you go to an event and a) don't bring business cards or b) don't bring enough. Until we all use smartphones that can more easily exchange information business cards are the most effective way to exchange information. It looks very unprofessional to go to an event and not have a business card to give out.
If you aren't making yourself appear friendly, how will you effectively network? Smiling is one part of the initial process of publicly declaring that you're a "nice person." A simple smile makes you warm and approachable.
Be interested in others
A good networker isn't someone who talks only about themselves. A good networker is someone who is genuinely interested in others. When you are interested in others, just like any relationship, people want to be interested in you.
Listen and listen well
Listening to others is related to being genuinely interested in others. However, there's a subtle difference. You might be very interested in someone but you are so focused on talking about your own company that you are not taking the time to listen. Also, when you listen, you need to listen to the key needs of who is talking and be able to respond to those needs.
When you finish attending the event, many of us do not follow up. You have business cards and leave them on your desk gathering dust. While you might dump the contact information into a contact management database, that's about it. Instead you should take the time to respond individually to the people whose cards you have.
Last, but definitely not least, be very strategic about your marketing overall. Don't just dive into the pool of networking with no thought. Instead, network with a purpose. Know what you want and who you want to connect with.