By Andy Bailey
Does real-world networking still matter to your small business? Yes – more than ever!
According to a recent Badoo study, nearly 40 percent of Americans spend more time socializing online than they do with friends in the real world. That’s why I believe it’s more important now than ever before to practice our traditional networking skills. Face-to-face situations with business prospects and colleagues require skills that are not exercised through social networking.
For example, online communication doesn’t require you to think on your feet. When someone tweets you, you can take your time crafting a witty and thought-provoking response. Try waiting 10 minutes or more in a real-time response. Awkward.
Additionally, social networking is free of body language exchanges. (Emoticons and exclamation points don’t count as body language.) The majority of research says anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of communication is non-verbal. When you’re face-to-face you can pick up on an eye squint, shoulder tilt or tone that can be more telling than words.
To ensure you’re prepared for your next traditional networking event, here’s a list of five networking tips:
- Educate yourself. Before you go to an event, spend some time researching and refreshing. Read or reread the industry bestseller. Brush up on current events. This will give you the confidence and knowledge you need to effectively contribute to conversations.
- Establish a goal. Walk into an event with a specific and measurable connection goal that gets to the heart of what you want to accomplish. Just introducing yourself isn’t enough—that doesn’t achieve a useful result.Try something like: I will leave this event with four subsequent meetings lined up. You aren’t being too aggressive by actively seeking people you want to meet. Everyone understands the motivation behind attending a networking event. They’re there to make valuable connections as well. Don’t be afraid to seize your opportunities.
- Get introduced. If your colleague knows someone at the event that you would like to meet, ask him or her to introduce you. That’s a more natural approach and eases any awkwardness associated with blindly introducing yourself. Additionally, the joint connection will give you something to talk about when you’re breaking the ice with your new connection.
- Bite your tongue. During a conversation, make a concerted effort to ask the other person questions and then listen to his or her answer. The rule I follow: he or she should be talking 80 percent of the time. A good listener is hard to find and if you are one, people will want to talk to you.
- Give. Surprise your new contact by asking him or her, “What can I do for you?’ Helping others is incredibly gratifying and will strengthen your relationships. Make sure you follow up a few days after the event to show you are reliable, considerate and genuine.
What are your best networking tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know about some tactics that have worked for you.
Andy Bailey is lead entrepreneur coach with business coaching firm Petra Coach and serves as the Entrepreneur Organization’s global membership director. Visit his blog at petracoach.com for more business and leadership insight.