The first rule of successful business networking: Register for events and turn up! Of course, there’s more to success than that.
I believe that meeting new people should be comfortable and enjoyable. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself - your aim isn’t to collect 20 business cards,
or to meet everyone in the room.
That said, you must have a strategy to truly connect with people – and the right people - at any business networking event. If you simply turn up at events and hope for the best, you’ll waste a lot of time, and your results from networking will likely be mediocre.
Below are some simple networking strategies that will make your experience simpler and more fruitful.
Before the Event
- The day before a Sydney Hills Business Chamber event review the ‘Connector List’ that is emailed to you. Aim to identify attendees you’d like to meet where there could be mutual benefit to both parties over time. (It’s good idea to do this for any event or conference where a list of attendees is supplied to you)
- Make a list of 5 people you would be interested to meet.
- Do some basic research to find out more about those people. View their LinkedIn profiles and business websites and check out their Chamber profile if they’re members.
At the Event
- Arrive early. If it’s a Chamber event for example, arrive at 6.30am for a business breakfast, 11.30am for a lunch and 5.00pm for a business after five. Arriving early maximises your networking time and provides an excellent opportunity for introductions.
- At most SHBC events, you’ll find ‘connectors’ wearing orange vests, and their purpose is to facilitate introductions between attendees. Go straight to the connectors and ask to meet your first connection.
- When you meet your connections, remember that people do business with people they ‘know, like and trust’ – so be a person first. Don’t try to sell yourself or your services. That means learning about your potential connections as people. Ask about their interests outside work – do they have an interest in sport, creative pursuits or hobbies? Do they have children? This can help you discover common interests – and importantly, get the conversation off to a relaxed start.
- When it’s time to move the conversation towards work, instead of asking them to tell you about their business, ask how they help others in their role, or what activities they love most in their role. That type of question can lead to much deeper conversations of purpose that help you to truly connect.
- Are you feeling the connection? Is this a relationship you’d like to develop further? If it is, it’s time to make that happen with something like Well Bill, that was a really interesting discussion….(as you take out your mobile phone)….would you have 20 minutes free to catch up in the next couple of weeks so we can discuss that a bit further?
The caveat to asking the last question is:
- You must have genuinely felt the connection;
- You must think they have too;
- You are not selling anything – you’re creating the opportunity to get to know each other better;
My own networking experience
I have been using these strategies for the last 6 years in my role with the Sydney Hills Business Chamber. The approach has led to building deep relationships over time, rather than having a series of paper-thin chance meetings at events.
When I then meet with people for discovery meetings, new member meetings, annual meetings and every other type of meeting I have, this approach gives me an incredibly strong base for any new connection I make. It helps me to truly connect with people and unearth opportunities for them based on that deeper knowledge.
Meeting business people should not be like ‘speed dating’. There’s no prize for collecting the most business cards at networking events. The real prize comes from building long term, mutually beneficial business relationships.
Enjoy connecting with purpose!
About the author: Richard Holland is the Membership & Engagement Manager at the Sydney Hills Business Chamber.