Speed networking doesn’t always mean you’re at a formal event – it might just mean you have a great opportunity to chat to inspiring people, and want to make the most of it.
If you’re new to speed networking and want to make sure you have a great and productive time, we have some tips to make the most of your interactions.
The essentials for better networking:
1. Set your intentions before the event.
- Why are you going?
- What’s the outcome you hope to achieve by attending?
- Who is it you need to meet to help you move your business forward?
- Are you needing a mentor, a business partner, joint venture partner or something else?
Notice we didn’t say “client”.
In networking, as with any interaction, it becomes very obvious (and off-putting) if someone is only there for themselves
Ask yourself –
“Is my time best spent chatting with other participants, or should I be investing time and energy in getting to know the organisers and key influencers?”
2. Focus on building relationships, not getting contacts or leads.
“Building real relationships is about investing in them first, figuring out what they want and love, and then helping them get it.” – Ramit Sethi
Once you know who you want to connect with, it’s important to go in with the right mindset.
Switch focus and begin asking ‘what’s in it for them?’ to identify how you could add value to the other person, things change.
This gives you a better framework to start building productive relationships. Not all will result in immediate business benefits, but over time networking is enjoyable, and lets you ask for valuable advice from people more successful than yourself.
Keep in mind that the value of a relationship is not limited to monetary value. If someone is an influencer and has a powerful network you are trying to connect with, then building rapport and trust and helping them achieve their goals could lead a favourable situation.
3. Show up as the best version of yourself.
If you’re a natural introvert, this is not a green light to go hide in the corner.
You want to be relaxed, natural and real when talking to someone – this is particularly important when trying to connect with someone you might view as ‘above’ you in some way. It’s important to recognise that they were once new in their industry too, and people aren’t too different from you.
Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend recommends the 3-second rule:
‘When you see someone interesting to talk to, you have three seconds to walk up and say hello.
Wait longer and you’ll either overthink it and screw it up or overthink it and never approach.
Not sure what to say? It doesn’t matter. Anything is better than nothing, because it takes you from being a no-name in a sea of faces to being an actual person with a story (who had the courage to say hello).
If it’s someone you’ve always wanted to meet, you’ll at least be able to open by thanking them for their work and how it’s impacted you.
4. Diagnose and listen, don’t pitch.
Your job is to listen and ask questions – leave your elevator pitch at home.
Jeffery Slayter says the person who asks the questions in a conversation holds the power, but this does not mean asking random questions will make you appear powerful.
Ask questions to help you understand what’s important to the other person.
- What are their core values?
- Are they all about family?
- Do they love to travel or play sport?
- Do they have pets?
- What challenges are they facing that they could use some help with?
It may seem odd to consider these questions at a networking event, but when you can find one thing to relate to the other person about, it builds rapport.
5. Follow up and follow through.
In the world of business, your word is law, and your perceived integrity is valuable currency.
If you say you’re going to do something (eg. connect a person to someone else, send an email, book a meeting), then you have to do it. You also want to follow up within 24-48 hours, so the memory of your meeting is still fresh in both your minds.