Relationships are developed through networking which means relationships create business. Let’s face it, time is a commodity most of us do not have. Having limited time, business professionals need to perfect their networking skills. Networking can be scary and intimidating as well as ineffective. Networking becomes effective when you know the audience, come prepared and are committed.
With an abundance of social, professional and civic organizations, you can literally attend functions morning, noon and night. In order to determine if your attendance is a valuable use of your time, you need to determine who the audience will be. For example, if you are interested in making business contacts attending a function of your local Chamber of Commerce makes sense. Chamber of Commerce’s support the business community and therefore attendance is comprised of business professionals. Each person has the same agenda – to establish contacts, which creates business.
After you determined the event has a similar mission as yours, come prepared. First, devise an introductory speech that is purposefully and to the point. Your speech should include your name, your company and your intentions. To illustrate, when networking I say, “my name is Kimberly Nastasi and I work for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce which is comprised of the Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach and Pass Christian Chambers of Commerce as well as Leadership Gulf Coast, Coast Young Professionals, and Centurions. Our goal is to provide services that connect, inform and develop your business and its employees. I would appreciate an opportunity to speak to you about how your business will benefit by becoming a part of our network of nearly 900 businesses across the Mississippi Gulf Coast.” It is important to know what you are going to say because the opportunity for a connection might be limited. Be sincere and confident in your approach. Have business cards readily available and distribute them, as they do no good if you don’t make them work for you.
Finally, you need to commit to networking. Often it is intimidating to attend functions and not know the group. It’s often harder to walk up to a group of strangers and introduce yourself. Knowing that you have selected the correct audience and are prepared will support your initiation of conversation. Be sure to maintain eye contact and deliver a firm handshake. Say the person’s name during the conversation to aid your memory. Ask for their business card and present yours. After the event, write notes on the back of business cards for reference. Follow up with your new contacts with a short email or note thanking them for their time. Don’t wait for them to follow up you.
Networking will be effective if you follow these simple steps of knowing your audience, preparation and commitment. Relax and be yourself. Do not allow the situation to control you. Take advantage of all opportunities.