Updated: Jul 13, 2020
Networking is vital business activity that, when done effectively, will help boost your business’ profile and build long-lasting relationships with key individuals.
It’s not just about the people in the room. The power of networking is reaching into the wider network of those people. Your job is to build deep relationships with the people in your group so that you become the trusted provider that they can then refer on to all the other people they know both personally and professionally.
Some professionals find networking challenging, but the secret to being a successful networker is taking the time to prepare properly. Take some time prior to the event to do a little planning and research – this will really pay off when it comes to having conversations with new contacts and potential customers.
Ensure your surroundings are suitable – laundry lying on the table behind you won’t emulate professionalism. Neither will bad lighting, you want your prospective contacts to be able to see you!
If it will be a longer meeting, make sure you have a glass of water to hand in case your throat gets the tickles when you start speaking.
Dress appropriately, if you wouldn’t wear it to a face to face meeting you shouldn’t wear it to an online meeting (pyjama bottoms are ok as long as you don’t stand up but a scruffy T-shirt can get you noticed for the wrong reasons).
Make sure you’ve got a pen and paper handy to take notes.
Turn up on time – or even better, turn up early.
Know where the mute button is, there is nothing worse than background noise when other people are speaking. And likewise, wasting time fiddling around trying to take yourself off mute when it’s your turn is also annoying for the others.
Carry out some due diligence prior to the online event. How does your product or service fulfil the needs of these potential customers? Identify this and not only will you have a lot to talk about, but you may secure yourself a new customer.
Make sure your own LinkedIn profile is up to date and professional.
And most importantly, plan what you are going to say as your elevator pitch.
During the Meeting
Stick to your pitch - there is nothing worse than waffling and people still not knowing what you do. Stick to the time given for your introduction, if you are given 60 seconds it is rude to everyone else if you take 5 minutes.
Use your speaking time wisely – provide your contacts with add-value information; this could be sharing industry insights or providing hints and tips you have learned in your role.
Stand out - in a sea of faces you want to be memorable, this could be a brightly coloured top, whacky tie or simply a great smile.
Be interested – when on the meeting don’t be doing other work while waiting for your time to speak, if you aren’t listening to them why should they listen to you.
Use the mute button when you are not talking – but remember to unmute yourself when it is your turn to contribute.
Use Breakout Rooms - a lot of online networking meetings have breakout rooms where you can be placed at random to learn a bit more in depth about different people. Be interested and don’t make an excuse to leave if you think they are not your target market, they could have just taken on a brand-new customer who is your target market.
Use the Chat function to reach out to other guests privately to set up 1 -1's after the meeting. These one-to-one's are the most powerful part of networking and are critical to building the relationships and getting the business you want.
After the event
Follow up - get peoples’ contact details, connect on LinkedIn. Once connected don’t bombard with marketing material and sales pitches, networking is about building relationships not selling immediately.
Remember that people buy from people so attend regularly. Attend every meeting if you can so that they get to know you and what you do, give them confidence for them to recommend you to their clients/friends/family.
And lastly, burn the 24 - 7 - 1 rule into your brain... send a personal note within 24hrs, follow up in 7 days, and make contact at least once a month thereafter.