Staying connected with innovative professionals and like-minded entrepreneurs provides opportunities to expand your network and create worthwhile business opportunities, so it’s handy to keep some networking tips in mind.
It’s an important element of growing a business, but networking is more than just harvesting as many business cards as you can.
Networking is intentional and requires practice — all the articles on ‘top networking tips’ are meaningless without a real opportunity to practice your conversation starters or partake in meetups.
Start creating more opportunities to rub shoulders with prospective partners, mentors, and like-minded professionals to give your business the right platform to grow, whether at an event or in a coworking space.
Here are a few business networking tips and important questions to ask yourself before you get started.
What kind of networking event is right for me?
When you see networking as relationship building, it makes the most sense to look out for a context where you can be authentic and comfortable. For some, bonding with new professionals over a shared activity creates a common topic of interest to talk about, but for others, a more laid-back approach to networking is preferred.
If you’re naturally more introverted and prefer smaller and quieter contexts, a professional event at a local pub may not be the ideal context to flex your networking muscles.
Always: Start your networking journey by considering the type of environment that is best suited to your natural strengths and abilities.
What are my expectations?
You’re reading a blog about networking tips, so it can be assumed you’re interested in doing this well.
Addressing your expectations and aligning the goals you have for your business before a networking event can help you identify the realistic opportunities at hand. It can be tempting to expect an immediate return on the investment you make when networking, but in reality, the outcome of your new networks is more than its monetary value — you may not reap the benefits of that relationship until a later stage.
Don’t limit the success of networking to one business card, and always consider the longevity of a strong relationship.
If your expectations for a networking event are less about the relationship and more about the outcome, your conversations will be sprinkled with commercial interest, taking on the persona of a salesman rather than a trustworthy professional. Don’t risk coming across as fake or in-genuine. Rather, be remembered for your passion and authentic personality.
Always: Be a human first when you speak to people and choose to invest in a few deep relationships instead of a batch of shallow contacts.
Where can I find an event?
Business networking events are regularly sprawled across the CBD. A simple Google search can return a few different options, but identifying the right type of networking event for your business can drive the best outcomes:
- Online sites: From workshops to speed networking, Eventbrite lists a range of events from different organisations in Australia to choose from.
- Corporate events: If you’re looking for advice or networks in the corporate space, keep an eye out for events on websites or newsletters by enterprises.
- Industry events: Networking is only one of the benefits at industry events such as Cebit, that connects technology professionals from enterprises, SMEs, start-ups and Government.
- Coworking spaces: Coworking spaces like Hub regularly run networking events so keep tabs on their website or social media pages.
- Social networking: Hear about upcoming networking events from mutual connections or business profiles on LinkedIn.
- Blogs: Subscribe to sites such as TNW, Anthill, or TechCrunch to hear new events and stay connected to industry news.
Takeaway networking tips
Give your business the best chance at making a positive and professional impression with these basic networking tips:
- Firstly, build rapport by talking less about yourself and stopping to listen to the other party. The more interested you are in the other person, the more likely they are to share things about themselves.
- Ask unique questions that set you up for interesting answers. Most people will stick to a similar repertoire of questions but your unique and genuine questions will create opportunities for anecdotes or interesting facts that will forge deeper relationships.
- Avoid buzzwords and rehearsed elevator pitches, and when asked about your business, be passionate, honest, and humorous.
- Some basic research beforehand can help you get the most out of a networking event. When you approach a new network, knowing some context about their business can give you more of an advantage in the conversation.
- Broaden your horizons by speaking to people who are dissimilar to you rather than gravitating towards people similar to you.
- Courteous follow-up will help you remain memorable to new contacts. In your follow-up, add a personal touch with a link to an article that may have been referenced in your conversation.