Yesterday, we discussed the importance of in-person networking. Today we'll share some tips on you can make networking pay off for you and your business.
Top tips to make your networking really deliver
Since you want maximum ROI for the time and funds invested in any conference, preparation is key. Good networking takes time, focus, and planning that begin well before the event. Once you arrive, schedules are tight and time is short—you’ve got to hit the ground running if you want your efforts to pay off. These ten tips will help optimize your results.
1. Identify your objectives. Weeks in advance, allocate a chunk of time to consider exactly why you’re attending this event, then determine a strategy to meet those goals. Write down your thoughts so you can see them clearly. If you’ve been hoping to meet specific people, you might already have a written “hit list” of names; if not, this is the time to identify targets, whether they’re companies or individuals. Take advantage of available event resources to help. For example, if you’re registered for Ariba LIVE, you can use the mobile app to review who’s attending, send messages and meeting invitations, and get invites from others long before the conference begins.
2. Know before you go. Once you’ve established your hit list, research the needs and concerns of those you plan to meet and consider what you might offer them. Don’t limit yourself to business alone; knowing someone’s hobbies, passions, or even favorite charities can be useful as well. Shared interests can help you establish common ground and provide a natural reason to get together after the event.
3. Lighten your load. Teaming up with a trusted colleague is a good idea—everyone can use a good wingman or -woman. Networking with a buddy can help you stay focused on site, but why not enlist your sidekick as early as possible? Two heads are better than one, especially for brainstorming your strategy and performing pre-event research. Use the divide-and-conquer approach, compare notes, and keep each other motivated. If one of you feels nervous meeting new people or is still refining an elevator pitch, you can coach each other with practice sessions before you arrive.
4. Leverage your network. During your planning phase, reach out to those you already know for help. You never know who might have a connection to a decision maker, their assistant, or one of their key influencers until you ask. If both you and your buddy do this, you’ll double your odds of learning something useful. A tidbit of relevant information might provide the perfect opening to start a conversation with the CEO you find yourself standing next to in the elevator—a much better introduction than any pitch you could memorize!
5. Prepare to chat. You researched the folks on your hit parade, but what about all those random-yet-relevant people you might meet? Striking up a conversation can feel awkward at first, so it’s good to have some general topics in mind (a recent news item, a local tourist attraction) as well as generic open-ended questions, such as where to go on vacation or something conference-related: “Can you recommend the best way to spend our free night on Tuesday?” or, “I can’t decide which sponsor dinner to attend.” Asking someone’s opinion or advice is usually a good way to get them talking.
- “15 Tips from Keith Ferrazzi, Conference Commando,” Keith Ferrazzi, founder and chairman, Ferrazzi Greenlight, 2005
- “Three Networking Habits to Drop and What to Do Instead,” Caroline Ceniza-Levine Caroline, forbes.com contributor, 14 June 2013
- “Six Icebreakers that Take the Pain Out of Networking Events,” Kristi Hedges, forbes.com contributor, 30 August 2013
- “Eight Signs You’re a Terrible Networker,” Darrah Brustein, forbes.com contributor, 6 November 2013