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Tips for effective networking

Face to face networking events are often a necessary part of life as a business professional. They let you meet like-minded individuals, make important business connections and get your foot in the door of potential clients.  Here are a few things you can do to make your next networking event a success. 
  1. Ask questions – apply the two ears one mouth principal; listen twice as much as you speak. Asking open ended questions, like "Why” or "How”, require more than just a yes or no answer and help you build rapport with your new contact.
  2. Be a connector - instead of focusing only on making your own connections, make an effort to connect others. Having a rich and robust network of people takes time to build. However, taking the time to cultivate relationships with people in and out of your industry will quickly make you the go-to person when something needs to be done quickly.
  3. Have a purpose - before you arrive at an event, ask yourself what you're hoping to achieve and what you need to do to achieve it. Many people go to an event hoping to meet a certain number of people. Challenge yourself to do something that may feel out of your comfort zone. Your goal could be to meet 3 new people or to have one meaningful conversation with a prospect.
  4. Bring business cards and other supplementary information – business cards are a no brainer, but depending on the type of event, you may also want to bring pamphlets or other supplementary material to hand out. Remember, people love promotional items! A pen with your company logo and contact information or an event specific item (logoed golf tees for a golf tournament) can help keep your contact information at hand when a potential client needs the services you offer.
  5. Give your full attention – instead of constantly scanning the room to see who else is there, give the person you are talking with your undivided attention. There is nothing wrong with subtly steering a conversation to a close, however, avoid abruptly ending it to speak with someone else. Full attention requires eye contact and open body language.
  6. Shake hands and smile – research shows that shaking someone’s hand may increase the chances of having a positive interaction. Smiling liberally will help you seem approachable and will actually make you feel happier!
  7. Follow up - if you've promised to send information or connect with someone, a good rule of thumb is to do it within 72 hours after the event. Waiting any longer may unintentionally convey disinterest. A follow up email, phone call or hand written thank you card is a great way continue the conversation with your new connection.
Being an effective networker means going into events with purpose and a plan. A little bit of preparation before your next networking event could be what sets you apart from the pack.
What are some of your best networking tips? Share them with us in the comments below.

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