Networking is one of the most valuable activities you can do for your business and your career, so make the most of it. These tips below can help you to succeed in professional networking. Go for it!
I Professional networking first considerations
1. Choose the right professional networking event
What is your ultimate goal
- New customers
- Starting capital
- Job opportunities
In any case, different events especially the most interesting ones, are suitable for specific purposes.
2. Go where the right people will be
Find out where to go. If you are looking for a financier, you can avoid the business networking events that policymakers miss. If you are looking for a job, try to find the events with personnel managers or HR hiring managers.
3. Ask yourself what you want to learn
Would you like to attend a meeting or event in your area to increase your knowledge? Find more information about the hosts, speakers and topics. If you are already an expert, find and go to a more advanced session.
4. Consider less usual network locations
Many go to the well-known announced professional networking events. But there are so many more places where you can meet business people and establish relationships. There are conferences, seminars, trade shows, meetups, chamber of commerce, speeches & talks, exhibitions, (business) clubs, charity meetings, even during trips to airports and in planes.
5. Find a professional networking event that suits your personality and goals
Once your goal is clear, you choose an event that gives you the chance to shine. If you feel uncomfortable in large groups, look for events in more intimate environments. Just feel comfortable wherever you go.
II Professional networking DON'Ts
1. Not go for the quantity
A professional networking event does not have the purpose to see how many business cards you can get in the shortest possible time. It's quality time to develop relationships that will have potential. It is not a competition to collect business cards or a meeting for volatile conversations.
2. Not allowed bad behaviour
- Do not drink and eat too much, 3 drinks must be your maximum
- Do wear your professional clothing, business networking is simply, although not in office, still working (and if given, follow the given dress code)
- Do absolutely not talk about proceedings, (your little office) frustrations and confidential matters of your company
- No gossip, exchange information is appreciated, but avoid gossip
- Do not flirt, it is not an environment for an approach
- Voice elevations and shouting are inappropriate
- No inflammatory behaviour or aggressive behaviour
3. Book and not attend
Many fails, have no sense or suddenly have better things to do. Or maybe they are just scared or shy. It will be clear; a booking and not show up gives a very unprofessional impression.
III Professional networking DOs
1. Find valuable contacts
Schedule your available time and be productive as your intention should be to find a number of people you can talk to and your goal is to get their business cards and possibly do business with them in the future. Collect just enough information to screen your new made contacts and 6 to maximum 8 minutes talk should be sufficient for that.
2. Do not make immediately deals
Remember, networking is about developing relationships, so do not try to make a (fast) deal. You are professional networking and in that finding valuable contacts is your target. After all, why should someone do business with someone who he/she does not or hardly knows? So avoid those regular sales pitches or commercial proposals and do not ask for orders.
3. Be an active participant
When attending a networking event, it is important to be a good guest. Make sure you do not rest on your laurels and avoid sitting in the corner, otherwise no one will talk to you. If you do not work in the room, you miss opportunities. Be friendly and open when you talk to people, and when you see someone alone, say hello.
4. Efficient and effective - time management
It is important to keep track of the time of the network event. Make sure you manage your time effectively - do not spend 20 minutes with someone you know or have met before at a previous networking event, but spend your time with new people.
5. Ask and listen
You have to talk to people - but you also have to hear what the other person is saying. Otherwise, you do not know if this person is the right person to talk to and contact. Ask yourself, "Do I really need this person's business card, or does it have nothing to do with my purpose? Only by the right questing and listen and you will learn.
6. Get a diversified network, not a large network
If you only work in your industry or social group, you can easily become an "outsider". Go to the mix of professional networking and social events. Attend those events of (other) professional organization, as well as special networking events hosted by people who specialize in connecting businesses and executives. Certainly, diversified network contacts may lead to new insights and remarkable introductions.
7. Personify your relationship
Create strong relationships and an introduction to a lasting memory. But, do not expect overnight wonders from the professional networking. It takes time for people to build trust in you and you need to invest in those relationships. Try to connect with them as a person first and try to share common and personal interests. Trust and business will surely follow.
IV Professional networking preparation
1. Be prepared
Do plan and not plan a failure. Simple. When going to an event, you must think who, people in which roles and from which sectors you want to meet and from whom you want to collect their business cards. Do some search on the event advertisement, internet and LinkedIn. If you are shy or get confused when talking to people, try to practice in advance what you are going to say. Think about how original you want to present your business, yourself (businesswise and personal) and your skills without being it a sales pitch.
2. Original pitch
Make an indelible first impression, through an extremely original introduction. Not the standard "I am … and am in …". Better is to sketch images, give examples or tell the solutions you can offer. Practise it and have a few (2 to 4) ready that have proven that they catch the attention.
3. The farewell
Also practise these too and you will need to have some standards for different situations.
Also, classify them as there are
- boring, break up fast
- uninteresting no follow-up
- neutral yet unclear
- good, build up trust
- excellent, looking forward to and promise a follow-up
4. Set a goal
A networking event is not a social event, you are there to achieve something. Set a goal, such as the number of people you want to talk to or want to know. When is the professional networking event for you successful; which acquaintances do you want to talk to, how many introductions, how much promising new contacts?
5. Business card ready
Put your business cards in your jacket pocket, chest pocket or outside pocket so they are easily accessible and in good condition. Incomprehensible that there are still individuals who forgot or have given away their last business cards or have only dirty and wrinkled business cards. Also, note there is more and more e-business card exchange these days. So be also mobile phone ready.
V Professional networking entering and scanning the room
1. Take time to plan
You have to thank the host first, then immediately find someone you know well. With those, you can, and this will help without being indecent, estimate the potential, keep your focus and plan your event. After that, you may start professional networking effectively, meet new people and avoid meeting people you already know well.
2. Do not stare
Remember that this is not a "watch" contest when someone comes into visual contact. Make eye contact for 3 to 5 seconds, then look away before returning your attention.
3. Find the best spot
The best place for professional networking is through a busy area, such as a front door, bar or near the food buffet. Go there, as in general, these are also the best spots to start an easy discussion with others.
4. Not contact those with an urgency
Do not appeal anyone when they go to the bathroom or have a phone in their hand. Wait until they return to the network zone or they leave their phone.
5. Keep right hand always available for the handshake
Always keep one hand free to shake hands with people. It means you can not have to eat and drink at the same time. Remember that you are here to network, not to drink or to eat a complete meal.
6. Eat with friends
It is best to enjoy the food with existing relationships and in the meanwhile, to update and strengthen ties. After that, quickly continue to make new contacts.
VI Professional networking in progress and connecting
1. A great handshake
Do give a great unforgettable handshake as you are immediately judged by your handshake! Powerful not painful, dry hands and with a firm gaze straight into the eyes. Bingo. People remember shaking hands for years, so start with a good indelible first contact.
2. Business card ritual
When giving or receiving a business card, be very careful when dealing with Asian people, as many people treat them with great respect. In Thailand, exchanging business cards is an important ritual, slight head bend and the card tips in the 2 hands with name readable to the receiver.
3. Make personal notes on your business cards
When giving your card to a person, personalize it by hand by writing a note or additional contact information. This gives the recipient the feeling that he is getting something special.
4. Make notes on received business cards
When you receive a business card from someone, take some time to write a note on it, for example: where you got it and other comments to remind the person. Doing this, the business card given person will get a sense importance and firmness.
5. Take two business cards
At network events, there is a lot of business card exchange: ask for two business cards when you talk to someone. Do just take one for yourself, but also take one for someone you may know who might be interested in this contract or their business.
6. Introduce others to your network
Demonstrate your professional networking skills and introduce each new person you meet at least one other person.
7. Stop selling and start listening
When meeting someone for the first time, use it as an opportunity to understand their business and needs. Do not try to sell them anything but start first building a relationship. A good listener will receive more information.
8. Eye contact
If a person talks to you, you should definitely face them. When you pay close attention to a person’s eyes, they are encouraged to share more.
9. Head language
Communicate and connect with the person you are talking to by tilting your head while listening. It is an effective body language technique that communicates that you pay attention to what they saying to you.
10. Wait and let the other ask questions
Best professional networking tip: Instead of starting yourself the discussion and tell about yourself, let your new contact take the lead and ask questions. It's amazing how much you will learn about their business attitude, contacts and needs.
11. Ask open questions
Simple or not? Ask open questions to your contacts in professional network conversations. Questions just as; who, what, where, when, and how, as in contrast to those questions which can be answered with a yes or no. Inquiring with open questions opens the discussion and shows the interest you will have in them.
12. Keep on and discuss the topic
After the person has shared something with you, verify the information and also ask them another question about the topic or what they just have said. This shows that you want to understand and interested in what they are telling you.
13. Look for the loners
Start a conversation with someone who is alone. They will be happy to have someone to talk to and so often have access to valuable information.
14. Do not interrupt
Do not go to two people who talk because you can disturb an important discussion. Estimate whether you are welcome to the third person.
15. Group etiquette
Never try to start or lead a discussion into a group of four or more people. Join the group, but do not try to start the discussion until you have had eye contact with everyone and only after at least two other people in the group have said something.
16. Drop the contact name
A simple trick. If you, during a professional networking event get a call, use two or three times the other person's first name. People always like to hear their own name and this helps to remember when the discussion is over.
17. After professional networking events
Organize or join a group of good acquaintances to go to another place for a (short) after event. Never miss an opportunity to strengthen the relationship,
VII Professional networking follow-up
1. Avoid the pitfall of short memory and lost interest
When you meet someone for the first time, you have 48 hours to consult with them before they completely forget to meet you.
2. Store the information
After meeting someone for the first time, write down what you learned from the conversation on the back of your business card or store all data in a (mobile) CRM (Customer Relationship Management). This is especially good as you may continue the conversation of the last discussed topics.
3. Focus on value-added contacts
Develop the contacts have potential and contact and try to re-meet
4. Follow up!!!!
Most important of all in professional networking: follow up! Contact your new contact, best by email, the next day and remind them what your you and your company do have to offer and what could be their interest. If you do not contact your new contacts in a day or two, you've just wasted the entire networking event!!!
5. Connect on social media
Connect with your new contacts Use LinkedIn and here in Thailand certainly Facebook, and keep them following!