|by Melinda BrodyMelinda Brody and Company|
When most of us hear the word ‘business networking event’, an image of walking around a room full of strangers, handing out business cards and trying to think of things to say to these strangers usually comes to mind. Also, if you are part of an organized networking event, you know the dreaded ‘1 minute elevator speech introduction’ is also probably on the docket as well. So the image becomes you walking around aimlessly, trying to think of witty and intelligent things to say to people you don’t know AND you are shaking in your boots about doing your ‘LIVE at the Improv’ 60 second infomercial! No wonder we love to hate networking!
According to Wikipedia Business networking is: a socioeconomic activity by which groups of like-minded businesspeople recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities. A business network is a type of social network whose reason for existing is business activity. There are several prominent business networking organizations that create models of networking activity that, when followed, allow the business person to build new business relationships and generate business opportunities at the same time.
GOSH – it even sounds hideous and boring!
So, how in the world can you network effectively and actually enjoy it?? Well, for starters you need to have a plan in place before you ever walk in the door! Here are 5 simple tips to make your networking efforts effective, and more importantly, FUN!
- Do your homework. Find out in advance who is going to be there and then conduct a little research on them (Linked In is a GREAT resource for this!). Try to pinpoint 3 – 5 people who you REALLY want to meet before you ever even arrive.
- Arrive early to the event. This allows you to get comfortable with your surroundings and ‘get in the zone’. Pretend you are the official ‘greeter’ and make a point to welcome and introduce yourself to people as they walk it. This is A LOT easier than walking up to a group of strangers and introducing yourself!
- Do NOT, and I repeat, Do NOT give out your cards to ANYONE unless they specifically ask for it. In fact, don’t even TALK about yourself, instead ASK questions about the people you meet. Look at networking as a ‘fact finding’ mission….find out as many things as you can about the people in the room. If you do indeed meet someone who you think you could be a resource for, or vice versa, then exchange cards and make a point to follow-up.
- Practice your 60 second elevator speech until you have it memorized. Trying doing something unique or different. Instead of saying ‘Hi, my name is Melinda Brody and I own a video mystery shopping company’ try something like ‘Who likes to watch themselves on video?’
- Finally, relax and have fun. Think of business networking for professionals as a fraternity party for college kids (minus the keg of beer!). It is a chance to connect with a wide variety of people from diverse backgrounds and industries.