As a Chamber member, you have likely attended more than a handful of networking events. Most Hanover Chamber members cite networking opportunities as their number one reason for joining, yet so many of us are not confident in our networking skills. By utilizing the following networking tips, you will set yourself up to create solid and lasting relationships that will benefit your business and career.
Networking Tips for Business
1. Plan Ahead. Prepare a handful of questions to get the conversation started, and think about your own answers to similar questions. Replying with one-word answers doesn’t make for good conversation, and likely will leave you with an awkward silence.
Think about questions that you can ask that will elicit a response and tell you more about the person with whom you are conversing. Preparing ahead of time will help to calm nerves and boost your confidence before entering the room. Some questions to get you started:
“Where are you from? Where did you attend (school, college, etc.)?”
“What do you do in your business? What brought you to your current position?”
“Are you following (current sport season or team)?”
2. Arrive Early. A ‘fashionably late’ entrance means that most people in the room are already engaged in conversations and you’re left to wedge yourself into one of them. When you arrive early you’ll find the room a bit quieter, leaving a window of opportunity to spark a conversation with someone who isn’t already paired up.
3. Listen for Connections. Now that you have some questions ready to go, be sure that you are listening intently and making connections where possible. People like to talk about themselves; let them! Relate to common interests such as favorite sports teams, home towns, children or similar career paths. When you’ve made a connection, expand the conversation on that topic. Make a mental note of the connection so that you can refer back in a future conversation.
You’ve just met Sally whose son has started little league. Next time you speak with Sally, whether by email, phone or at an event, you’ll be able to ask how the season is going and fall back into a natural conversation.
4. Use Positive Body Language. We all know the feeling of talking to someone who isn’t fully listening, and likely that ties back to their body language. Show that you are interested in the conversation by making eye contact and nodding. Begin and end the conversation with a handshake. And, perhaps most importantly, don’t underestimate the importance of a smile! Not only does a smile help to put you at ease, but it makes you approachable and inviting to those looking to start a conversation.
5. Practice. The more you utilize these networking tips, the more they will become second nature. Soon, you’ll find yourself putting the tips into practice without thinking about them. Practice your icebreaker questions with coworkers, at the grocery store, the PTA, or at your next dentist appointment. Be sure to follow up and keep in touch with people you’ve met at networking events, even if that means a quick call or email to say ‘hello’. Remember that networking is all about making connections. Developing and keeping strong connections with people you’ve met can and will have a positive impact on your business, now or in the future.
Ready to polish your networking skills? Join Chamber members at an upcoming Membership Mixer or Eye-Opener Breakfast, and watch your business connections grow!