Tips for networking
Tonight I have the pleasure of facilitating a speed networking session in the Coca Cola facility, in Drogheda, Co Louth. The event is being hosted jointly by Drogheda and District Chamber of Commerce and Network Louth Meath Women in Business Networking group.
Just before we get into the networking I will be sharing a few tips on networking but with a specific focus on tips for speed networking. Each person at the event will have 2 minutes to pitch their business to the person on the opposite side of the table, the roles will be reversed and after 4 minutes they move along and repeat the process with the next person. It is a great way to meet a lot of people in a short space of time.
Here are the tips I will be sharing to help them all get the most from this invigorating way of networking. Enjoy!
1. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
Networking is not selling! The likelihood of you meeting someone at a speed networking event, or any networking event, needing your offering at that specific moment in time is extremely remote. Networking, in my opinion, is about two things. Building relationships and helping others. In fact the two are intrinsically linked. Focus on the people you meet, be helpful and that will contribute to building relationships.
After the event, be sure to follow up with those with whom you have made a connection. If you have built the relationship, they will be more likely to remember you and think of you when they, or someone they know, has a need for your offering.
Let the other person speak first. By doing so, it allows you to see how you might ‘help’ them. That ‘help’ might come in one of many forms. You might have some business development advice for them, you might link them with someone else in the room with whom there may be a synergy or you may have met someone else earlier at the event who may need their services. The likelihood of the help coming in the form of what you have to offer is, as we said already, extremely remote.
Building relationships is okay, but kissing our fellow networkers? You might think this is a bridge too far. But the word KISS, as you may or may not know, is an acronym for Keep It Short and Simple – this relates to your pitch. Try to avoid industry jargon. Remember, when you are conversing about your business (aka pitching) your grandmother or granddaughter should be able to understand it. Talk in the simplest possible terms.
So what do you say when you start your 2 minute pitch? By the way, the word pitch means throw. I’m not sure about you but I don’t like to be pitched to, I much rather if I am spoken to or, better still, conversed with. So, even though each speaker has 2 minutes to pitch their business, I will be suggesting that they speak about their business for a maximum of 60 – 90 seconds and use the remainder to allow the listener to ask some questions. By them asking the questions, they can find out more about what interests them about your business.
What do you say when you are conversing about your business?
There are lots of ways to construct your 60 second or 2 minute pitch (aka conversation). Following on with the theme of helping others – just tell the other person what you DO, how you HELP your clients and maybe share with them the main thing that makes you DIFFERENT from your competitors.
In other networking organisations such as BNI you are encouraged to ask for a referral, which can work very well, if you already have a relationship with the person you are talking to. Personally, I believe, if you have only met the person for the first time, this is a bit like asking someone to marry you on a first date! A more subtle way to allude to a referral is to share a brief case history of one of your ideal clients and the listener can get the message, more discretely, of whom you seek as a referral.
6. MORE MANNERS
We talked about manners already, in relation to letting the other person speak first. When the bell, whistle or bicycle horn (yes, I have seen one of those used in networking!) sounds – you need to stop talking! It really is good manners to avoid eating in to the next person’s precious couple of minutes.
So, if you follow these tips for networking and speed networking in particular, you should find yourself helping others, building relationships and ultimately have others willing to help you when the opportune time comes.