Posted on: 03/06/2021 by: David Morgan in: Business Information
Cast your mind back to those days before the pandemic and you’ll have fond memories of traditional networking events where you shared breakfast with fellow members of your local business community. There was a positive vibe when likeminded people shared the same room and the sense of energy and enthusiasm was palpable. Even those who are not natural networkers and don’t feel comfortable introducing themselves or talking about their business to a room full of strangers probably miss those good old days.
Since then, handshakes and hugs have been replaced with remote waves and emojis and the buzz of attending a physical event has been replaced with the buzz caused by ageing laptops as everyone tries to adjust to working from home.
Businesses were forced to conduct all meetings online and networking clubs admirably adapted to the new virtual world where video software such as Zoom and Teams became the new methods of communication. There is no doubt that virtual networking is here to stay but to what extent remains to be seen.
Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed many a networking event online but I am gregarious by nature and really miss those face to face meetings. The latest research indicates that I am not alone, with more than 23% surveyed looking to quit virtual networking altogether in favour of attending a physical event.
I am an optimist and although no date has been set yet for a return to physical networking I believe those good old days are just around the corner. With that in mind I have put together a few important reminders for when we do return to traditional networking.
Work on that elevator speech to make sure you sound polished and attendees understand what your business does and make sure you keep it clear and concise. Read and repeat until you know it off by heart so it sounds natural and not contrived.
Research and planning
You may be tempted to rush back into the first networking event available but do a bit of research first to make sure the other attendees fall into your target market. You should only attend the networking events that offer you the best business opportunities. Set yourself targets of what you want to achieve from the event e.g. maybe you want to speak with five new attendees or hand out 15 business cards.
Looking and feeling good
Dress smartly because you want to make the best first impression possible – this isn’t a Zoom call. People like to work with confident people so body language is key. Remember to keep your chin and head up, stand up straight – no slouching - with feet in line with hips. Make sure your hands are visible by keeping them out of pockets and keep your palms open when gesturing. Maintain eye contact when someone is talking to you and when it is your turn try and visually connect with the people you are talking to, and don’t forget to smile.
Selling can wait
Don’t try and sell yourself to the first person you meet, or second, or third. In fact don’t try to sell at all. Be yourself and instead of pushing your business try and help others. People tend to shy away from takers and gravitate towards givers. By doing this you can start to build relationships that may prove to be fruitful in the future.
Don’t just speak with people you know, to get the most out of networking you need to step out of your comfort zone. There is no hiding place here, unlike in the virtual world. Begin by approaching someone who is on their own and engage with them. As your confidence grows you can introduce yourself to groups of people. It is understandable that you feel nervous but remember so is everybody else because it has been more than a year since anybody has done any networking. Younger attendees may have only experienced virtual networking and will be equally apprehensive.
Don’t forget to follow up
Follow up by sending an email within 48 hours so that they don’t forget who you are. Mention a conversation from the event and find something relevant to mention from their website or about their business. Offer to help and arrange another meeting but remember not to be too pushy. Any aggressive sales technique here could mean the end before it has started. Make sure you proofread your email before sending because you want it to look as professional as possible.
Right then, all I need to do is order a new batch of business cards from the printer’s, take my mothballed suit to the dry cleaners and practice my handshake and I can look forward to having some company over breakfast again!
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