Our SEO Executive, Amelia Hall, is a self-professed theatre nerd, bookworm, and dog lover. When she’s not in the office, you can find her treading the boards in Exeter as part of a local light opera group. Or gravitating towards the nearest dog.
It’s indisputable. Networking is hard. Whether you’re a seasoned schmoozer or a shrinking violet, trying to make genuine, useful connections with a room full of strangers can be a daunting task.
Don’t worry, #TeamBigWave has got you covered.
Here are 10 business networking basics you can learn so quickly, you could be a networking pro in just a few minutes.
Ditch the pitch
Hold your horses. Networking is all about making and kindling new relationships, not just blindly telling everyone who will listen and exchange business cards why you’re the bee’s knees.
Take the time to connect on a personal level with a handful of key people. If you can get to know them a bit and can succinctly talk about what you do, they’ll soon think you’re the bee’s knees anyway.
Having said this…
Prepare a quirky 5-minute introduction
Now, this is not a speech that you give to everyone you meet. But some networking events ask everyone in the room to give a short introduction of themselves.
Putting some prep work into this and making it fun and quirky will make your introduction memorable. And it always helps if the people you are trying to network with remember your name.
You may be nervous. You may be excited. Neither is an excuse to act as a verbal steamroller when you’re meeting a new person.
It’s ok to talk less. Actively listen to your new connection – and look like you’re listening. Just don’t look bored.
Talk about something other than work
Whilst some shop talk will have to happen, being able to talk about something other than work will also set you apart from the pack. Nobody likes having the same conversation over and over.
Who’s more engaging: Tom, the PPC Manager, or Tom, the guy who knits jumpers for cats in his spare time?
Everyone else is probably just as nervous and awkward as you are feeling. Go on, go talk to someone. Stop hovering by the buffet.
Stand by the bar’s exit
Bet you didn’t know this one. The best place to stand for maximum networking opportunity is right where people come out when they’re leaving the bar. This way, you can intercept people who have a drink and are ready to meet people. You’re not in the way of getting to the bar, the food, or the exit.
Become a card-carrying member of the club
Some people think that carrying business cards is old fashioned, but it’s the most effective way of exchanging contact information. You want your connections to remember you, and you want to be able to get in touch with them.
Just make sure you don’t start collecting hundreds of business cards for the sheer sake of it. Exchanging cards with people which you’ve had a genuine conversation with is much more effective than lots of business cards from a quick handshake alone. These people are more likely to respond to a follow-up and to engage in a business relationship.
Plus, what are you going to do with all those cards, seriously?
Make a graceful exit
You’ve done great work chatting away to your new contact. But now what? How do you move on? Oh god, it’s getting awkward.
Easy fix: “It’s been great to meet you. I had better do my rounds and meet a few more people before the end of the evening.”
Don’t rush relationships
Hold your horses. You’ve made the connection (yay!) but now don’t stalk them for the next 6 months. Contact them perhaps the day after you meet – a quick email sending them an article you were discussing or inviting them for a coffee takes about 5 minutes.
Make sure to check in occasionally, but don’t overdo it trying to make them your best friend in a week. Remember that relationships take time – trust isn’t built overnight.
Nail the firm handshake
This one is arguably the most important.
Seriously, is there anything worse than a limp handshake?
See, you’re now a networking pro. Go forth and mingle!