Have a clear mission for every event
Networking is a process of gathering and sharing information. Set your mind on networking mode and do some thinking before an event; what is your mission for the event, why are you attending, who else will be there, what kind of connections do you want to make, who do you want to meet? Set yourself quantifiable goal for the event – “5 new connections, 3 people who are potential employees, 2 potential new customers”.
Your network is there to multiply your opportunities and capabilities. You help people in your network and they help you when needed. The network brings you support with skills, knowledge, learning, point of view, career and business.
There are 360 days in a year, which means 360 opportunities to meet new people. If you meet just one new person every day of the year, you will have network of more than 360 people in a year!
Pitch your mission – Prepare and rehearse your opening statement
Networking follows the normal rules of conversation: be interested, be polite, pay attention and ask questions. The key to enjoyable networking is always to be prepared to introduce yourself and feel good about it. Focus on making a good impression, and then gently follow up with that person after the event.
Unsure of what to say? Here is a 3-step list to building your opening statement – or elevator pitch. Write it down and practice daily and at every possible occasion.
- Who are you? Your opening statement is a friendly hello and telling your name and your title.
- What do you do? Tell briefly what you do in general and in this event.
- What makes you unique? Show the listener why you are different from other people. Maybe a hobby or your work experience or the way you see the world. Anything that awakens interest.
Be energetic, polite and nice. Smile and shake hands firmly. Be passionate about your words. Pitch your value to the listener, make them interested enough to want to know more about you.
Closing statement – Move along swiftly
When networking, be fast to decide, whether you have common interests or if it was just a nice chat. You need a polite closing statement to end the conversation and to move on to meet other people. Practise your closing statements.
- If a person you have met is a good match, suggest a way forward. “It was great talking to you. I would like to talk more about this. Let’s exchange contact information and catch up soon with conversation.”
- If a person you have met is not a match, close the conversation. “It was great talking to you. I would love to hear more about your business, but I am here on a mission to find people who can help me. Have you met anyone here who can help me with my mission?”
- If you meet an old friend, move on. “It is great to meet you. I would like to talk to you more, but I am here on a mission to find people who can help me. We should catch up later or another time.”
Remember that you are on a mission. Whether person is a match or no match, you need to move on swiftly. It feels uncomfortable, but just do it!
After the event, follow up and reflect. Email or social media works well. Add the person to your Social media network. Just send a short message to remind of your conversation and suggest a meeting, if that is what you want.
Take some time to reflect on your networking after the event. How did I do? Was I able to meet the kind of people I wanted?
Networkers check list:
- Have a clear mission for the event.
- Prepare and rehearse your opening statement – Pitch your mission.
- Prepare and rehearse you closing statement – Move around swiftly.
- Reserve time to follow up and reflect after event
Take all opportunities you can to practise your skills – do this with your colleaques, friends and family. Ask for feedback. Get out there and meet new people.
Author Taru Haajanen is Development manager in StartUp School in Haaga-Helia and an entrepreneur.