I was excited to have been able to attend the Networking Aerobics Event hosted by the National Association of Professional Women Raleigh Chapter at the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. The session was on How to Have Fun “Working the room” Effectively! I attend numerous networking events on a frequent basis because it’s an essential tool that I can use personally and professionally. I’m a social butterfly by nature and I love to connect with others, engage and build relationships online and offline. I’m a firm believer that you never know who you’re going to meet and in addition to that I love connecting people with each other. The truth is I wasn’t always comfortable going to networking events. I would feel more comfortable if I went with a group of professionals that I knew vs. going alone and feeling awkward for a few moments before I settled in and started to network with the event attendees. I have learned the more you network, the easier it will get! I can now walk up to a stranger with a smile on my face and introduce myself at business events.
Our session was hosted by Kim Niskey, Senior Sales Representative with The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. Kim is awesome when it comes to networking and has a proven track record to show that her strategies work. Kim started out with a questionnaire about our comfort level working a room, she also gave us a networking checklist to help better prepare us for a networking event. So, the first thing you need to do before attending a networking event is… PREPARE! Kim provided some steps to help prepare for a networking event. “Research the event/meeting -topic, types of businesses who will attend, dress code etc. Make sure your 60-second “commercial” will be applicable for that profile. Be sure you have plenty of business cards & your professional name badge (engraved). Dress Appropriately for the event ( You only have 3 seconds to make a good impression) Allow plenty of time to be at least 10 minutes early.”
I personally have goals when I attend any type of event, especially a networking event. I know who I’d like to meet and I give myself a goal to achieve by the end of the event depending on the number of attendees. Ex: If there are 100 attendees, I try to exceed meeting half of them. I also love speed networking because you have a chance to meet a lot of people within a small amount of time. Kim shared to also try and meet 3-4 new people during a networking event… one at a time. Sincerely ask them about their business and how YOU can HELP them! If they ask about your business, tell them in 60 seconds or less. Try to be a connector. Also, remember to smile (it’s a part of your outfit) and be approachable. You never know who you are going to meet. Some people may not approach others due to a facial expression, body language and uninviting demeanor. We do live in a judgmental world and people will look at you and make that split decision on whether or not they’ll speak to you based on what they see and what you are projecting.
Last but not least, THE FOLLOW UP! I generally follow up with people within a 24-48 hour period, even if it’s just to say it was nice meeting you and let’s keep in touch. If you connect and make plans to collaborate with someone at an event this is even more essential because you’ve verbally agreed to work together on a project or event and you will want that follow through. Kim said to be professional and differentiate yourself – it is best to send a brief and legible note card with correct spelling and grammar. Follow up promptly – within (2) days of meeting them. Contact them according to their preference (call or email) AND on the date agreed. After contacting them and if they would like another follow up, ask permission when to contact them again. You can save time by drafting a generic follow-up template to use as needed and then you can also customize a personal follow up as needed. I also engage with people I meet on social media in between email and phone calls. It’s a great way to stay connected!
Kim’s Conclusion: If you’re asking people about their business and they in turn ask you about yours, isn’t that a fun way to start building relationships and getting new business? 2 events/ mo x 3 new business relationships x 12 months = 72 new business relationships/year! That’s pretty great!
I try and attend monthly Chamber of Commerce After Hours Events to network and connect with other local businesses to see how we can work together and thrive within our organizations. I also am a member of a few different networking groups that host networking meet ups that I attend. I strongly suggest attending local networking events to grow business relationships, level of trust and your revenue! How often do you attend networking events? What are some networking tips you want to share?