By Sue Ratcliffe

For startups and young entrepreneurs attending business events and exhibitions can be great for your business if you take advantage of the opportunity. You need to make as many contacts as possible throughout your career as you will never know who could help you when you need them.

Networking is a great way to access otherwise inaccessible people. Most successful business are built on referrals and networking drives word of mouth recommendations.

Getting ahead of your competition is important when you start a business, especially if your business has a lot of competition. People and connections can be the basis that help you get ahead so make sure you know what to do when you are faced with networking.

Many people talk to other like-minded people but never make that lasting impression. Networking is about standing out and selling yourself in a way that other people may not. You must be remembered by the right people and offer something that no one else can. This could be as simple as remembering the person’s name or following up your conversation with a LinkedIn invitation. Do something to make the person think about you for a second time. This could be great for your business as you could gain a partner, customer, investor or find an alternative platform to promote your company that you never thought was possible.

The top 10 points are as follows when it comes to engaging and networking with like-minded individuals.

  1. Lend an Ear. You must listen to what the other person has to say. Let the other person talk first. If they believe you are truly interested in what they are saying they will engage with you more and keep you in their mind. Ask questions relating to what they have just said in a bid to prompt them into further conversation.
  2. Confidence is Gold. As soon as you meet the person shake their hand with a strong confident grip. Make a strong and memorable first impression. Approach them and appear confident and interesting. It will help build your own self-esteem and boost your image in the eyes of the person you are talking too.
  3. Do Not Forget. Be sure you remember everyone you talk to. Referring back to what they do in the future could be very significant for your business. They could hold the key to a new campaign or deal. A lot of people have the capability to make a mental note of the person however you could also take note of their name or email address along with their company in a diary or in your phone.
  4. Make Them Laugh- It’s Not All About Business. “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower. If you find you have little in common or are stuck for conversation, tell a funny, memorable and appropriate story. Funny stories will stick in people’s minds. Make sure it short enough to keep their attention but long enough to fuel conversation afterwards.
  5. A Happy Face Is An Approachable Face. Smile and make eye contact. If you approach someone and you are looking over their head you will appear disinterested. Make sure you smile and look into their eyes when necessary. Over starting could be a little scary…
  6. Repeat Their Name. When they first introduce themselves, repeat their names. So for instance ‘Hello I am Tom, nice to meet you.’ ‘Hi, Tom lovely to meet you.’ You will remember their name is you say it after they introduce themselves. Asking someone to repeat their name is never professional.
  7. You Play Golf? I Love Golf! If you share an interest with the person you’ve hit gold. Golfing? Tennis? Any slight similar interest? Use it! Even if you know one fact about something they are interested in, say it. It would be worth your time to read up on current news as if anything comes up in conversation, you have something to talk about.
  8. Compliment Them. If they are wearing a nice tie pin, or have an interesting hair style, complement them. Everybody loves flattery. However again, don’t overdo it, subtle complements work best.
  9. Sell Yourself. It’s not all about them. Make sure they know what you do best. They may need your help in the future and if you pinpoint exactly how you could be an asset to them or their company, you may receive a phone call down the line.
  10. Connect With Them. LinkedIn is a platform you MUST use. It is a haven for networking and connecting with people. Find the person on LinkedIn after you talk to them. This way you will stay connected and up to date with what they are working on and vice versa. If you do not have a LinkedIn page get one and it could be the key to successful networking in the future.

Sue Ratcliffe is head of client services at alldayPA.