Ignore the headline. It's a lie.
If you're going to a networking event and your only objective it "to get business", you're doing it wrong.
I approach every networking event as an opportunity to build an ensemble of professionals. The approach is about making the connection NOT asking for business. Once you are a part of my ensemble, you will WANT to do business with me. I may not even have to ask for it.
Here are some tips about making connections that every professional probably already knows, but often forget when at a networking event:
- PREPARE. Yes, make sure you have business cards, check the registration list if one is available and target people you want to meet, dress appropriately, so on and so on. But beyond that level of preparation, take a moment before you enter the event to prepare your mind and body. We all play so many roles simultaneously in life. We're boyfriends/girlfriends, we're husbands/wives, we're fathers/mothers, we're salespeople/accountants/HR directors/leaders/followers/janitors all at once. Before you enter the event, take a moment to switch gears. Take a breath, loosen your shoulders, stand up straight and say to yourself "time to make connections". BE PRESENT!
- EYE CONTACT. Everyone knows this. But how many events have you attended where someone walked up, shook your hand and immediately looked at your name badge? Hello! My eyes are up here! I understand you're trying to discern if you really need to spend time talking to me, but if you don't look me in the eye, you put yourself at a disadvantage from the start and I don't want to talk to you. MAKE A CONNECTION!
- LET GO OF YOUR EGO. Pretty Zen, right? You don't know who is going to end up helping your business. If you walk in only looking for those who can help you and ignoring those who you think can't, you are not building ensemble, you're shutting people out. Everyone can refer someone to you; everyone can be your brand ambassador, but not if you don't make a connection. BUILD TRUST!
- TRY THE PERSONAL. So, maybe DON'T talk about your latest medical procedure, but don't be afraid to share personal information at a networking event. In fact, seek out opportunities to talk about things other than what you do at work. I have two teenage daughters. When I connect with someone over being a parent, it's a much stronger connection (and usual an extra drink) than when we connect over our work roles. People do business with those they know and trust! BE REAL!
Keith Ferrazzi, thought leader and relationship guru says “You are not asking for business, you’re asking for a relationship.” Build strong relationships and success will follow.
Please share your favorite networking tip in the comments below. And if we ever meet at a networking event, ask me about how I separated my shoulder. It’s a good story!
Greg Werstler is the Creative Sales Director and CFO for CSz Business Chicago. Greg has been a proud member of the event industry for 20 years, providing interactive entertainment and innovative training solutions. In addition to being an emcee and facilitator, Greg is currently enrolled in the MS Management and Organizational Behavior program at Benedictine University. In life and in business, Greg builds ensembles.