Networking is an essential part of growing a business. It helps you locate important people who can help to grow your company, and allows you to identify the best investors, staff and consumers for your business. Each time you speak to a new person, you’re marketing your company. Every contact is someone who can help spread the word about your endeavor.
It can also be a lot of fun to meet new people. Sometimes conversations can lead to new ideas or much-needed advice, and other times you can simply make new friends. Some people even meet spouses while networking for business.
In any case, networking can be intimidating. Entering a room full of people that you don’t know might be fun for extreme extroverts, but for the rest of us, it’s a necessary evil. The next time you attend an event, try this step by step guide to master networking.
Step One: Identify the best places to network
Some industries have organized forums for networking. Do a quick google search to find any upcoming conferences, happy hours or forums in your field. Ask people who are well estabilished in your industry where to meet key people. Oftentimes the best events can only be found through word of mouth.
Step Two: Prepare
The key to effective networking is to be yourself. Stay calm, be relaxed and confident. Still, there are certain things you can do to prepare for a networking event. Make sure you have professional-looking business cards and a pen handy. Choose an appropriate outfit. If you are going to an organized event, ask for a guest list and note who you should approach. Look for people who can help you with your business. Research their profiles and companies so that you have something to talk about. And make a list of all the things you want to tell people about your company: What is special about it? Why should people be interested in learning about it? What kind of partnerships do you need?
Step Three: Rock the event
Before you walk into the room, give yourself a pep talk. You are the founder of a fantastic company. You are smart, interesting and relevant, and people will want to meet you. Then when you get inside don’t hold back. Everyone finds these events a little uncomfortable, so be the one to make it easier on people -- approach the person standing alone, introduce yourself to a group of people already talking, chat to the people around you when you get a drink at the bar. And always collect business-cards. The more people you meet, the better chance you have of finding a great connection.
Step Four: Follow up the morning after
While the event is fresh in your mind, make a list of all the people you met and what you spoke about; you will find these notes useful later on. Then send everyone an email saying you enjoyed meeting them. Request meetings with people you want to involve in your business and tell the rest that you hope to see them at similar events in the future. It’s nice to be specific in the email so people will remember you and feel that you remember them. Write things such as, “I found what you said about X,X,and X particularly interesting."
Step Five: Make networking a regular thing
Make it a goal for yourself to attend at least one networking event a month. Before you go, email the people you met before to ask if they will be attending. Seeing people continuously is the best way to establish long-term relationships. And repeated contact is the only way to identify exactly who you want to involve in your company.