Tips for my first networking event?
I'm planning on going out to my first networking event to raise awareness. I've never been to a networking event and am a little nervous about it. What are good tips for navigating a room/talking about my business to people? I want to come off as authentic, not like a used cars salesman!
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Hi Zack. Relax and just be you, sell your personality as well as your product! Treat them as your friends.
GREAT question! My BEST advice would be to come and give and care more about others needs first than you do about your own. Ask lots of questions, that way you'll find out what other businesses do and if you have anything to offer them in the future. Be ready to offer your knowledge freely if appropriate, without attaching your service to your advice. If the people trust you and find what you have to say valuable, the next step will be to contact you if they need your help. Hope that helps
Be yourself and represent your product/brand/service pragmatically. Be sure to speak to as many people as possible as well, and ask questions. Everyone is there for the same reason - meeting and developing new contacts - so most people are a little nervous. Don't be afraid to take the initiative and politely enter the conversation with others.
Try to stay away from actively selling...that can come later. If you can articulately speak about what you do and your reason for attending the event, you'll do just fine.
Most importantly, remember nobody is actually comfortable at these things. Everyone is there to meet people, so theres nothing wrong with awkwardly walking into someone elses circle of conversation, they will all be interested to hear about you and your business. Its the old wild animal adage, "they are more afraid of you than you are of them"
You have some good answers here and I don't want to duplicate, so here are a couple of additional thoughts:
Used car salesmen look to make sales and lock you in before you leave the lot. I agree with other responses that you need to show interest in what others are discussing, but when it comes to discussing your projects, don't look to make sales, just look to raise interest, collect business cards, then plan to follow up later with the best prospects you met.
Let people know what you need. The person you are talking with may not be able to help you directly, but he/she has their own network and they might know someone who they can suggest you contact or they might pass your contact information along.
Work the room. If you have given someone your ear for 5 minutes, told them what is on your mind, and exchanged cards, move on. Networking is a volume game and it can be easy when you are nervous to just talk to one person. Thank the person for their card, agree to talk again later, and someone else.
Do not "qualify a lead" during the event. I went to one yesterday, the guy qualifies me and I notice it. What he didn't know is that we were in the same business. Everything was about him and I played along. When he finally ask me for my card, I handed it over and smiled...awkward!
Ask about others, their business, where they are from, etc., and when the time is right, you will know. Nothing wrong with asking if they know someone you can help, not necessarily them.
To Ashley's point, in your elevator speech, what value do you bring. Don't forget to mention it. Your first couple can be nerve wrecking, but well worth it once you have your speech down.
You'd be surprised how functional used cares salesman are these days! Best piece of advice for you is to always be interested in other peoples businesses. You will have an opportunity to raise awareness on your own business but the most important aspect about networking is developing relationships. Don't be fooled people, like yourself, LOVE to talk about themselves. Take a genuine interest in others and they will take an interest in you!
I recommend attending networking events around your area. Who knows? You may just find the answer that you are looking for.
I used to be terrified to go to networking events but my format is as follows:
Practice your "elevator speech." If you only had 60 seconds to explain the most important part of your business, what would you say? See if you can practice on friends, if not, record yourself with your phone to see and hear what the speech sounds like.
Eat at least a little before you go. You don't want a growling stomach or low blood sugar to effect how you communicate.
On my way there, my "calm down" method is to blast late 90s-early 00s rap music. For whatever reason, it works for me. Imagine you're an MMA fighter and you have to pick your entrance song -- rock out. Everyone I have ever had do it calms down.
Smile, shake hands, try to be the first to ask the other person what they do. Everybody loves talking about themselves so adding in questions like, "Oh wow, how interesting. What do you like most about it?"
If the person hasn't asked for your card, say something like, "I would love to hear more about _X_! Here's my card. Feel free to give me a call so we can grab coffee and discuss it," or some variation.