Networking can be an important way to grow your firm and gain new clients or partnerships. Whether you are at a conference, a fundraiser, or even just in the office, networking is key to building relationships and finding new opportunities. For some, ‘mingling’ is difficult and making small talk is challenging. Here are some easy ways to make networking less painful and more successful:
If you’re attending an event or conference, try to look at list of attendees before hand or request a copy if it’s not made available. You can see whom you may want to seek out to talk to and prep what you’ll say ahead of time. If there is a disability group that you want to seek out a partnership with that’s on the list, do some research ahead of time so you can be well prepared for a conversation at the event.
Where you stand at the event can make the world of a difference. Typically, by the bar is the best place. If you can position yourself correctly, you can catch people after they are leaving the bar. This will have given them time to arrive at the event, grab a drink and catch their breath before they begin networking. If there is no bar, by the food is your second best option. If you’re in line, you and those around you are stuck there for a few minutes, so you might as well strike up a conversation! You’ll have an easy opening line by talking about the food you’re waiting for or what has happened so far. Wherever you decide to stand, avoid the entrance. It’ll be chaotic and people may be less accepting of conversation if they are trying to check in or get settled.
Body language is always important, whether you’re trying to network or talking to a current client. If you appear to be uninterested or look like you’re not even paying attention, the conversation will end quickly and you likely won’t have a new contact. Simply tilting your head just a little when the other person is talking can leave a lasting impact. You’ll show that you are listening as well as paying attention. This will help establish a better connection with the person talking, ultimately ending in a new relationship.
Always have a business card with you. If you work for a small firm where business cards aren’t in the budget, there are plenty of inexpensive online services where you can create and print business cards. When you do give you’re your business card always ask for the other person’s as well (or their contact information if it’s a potential client where the person would not have a business card.) Giving your card is always great and exciting, but the recipient needs to reach out to you for it to be a success. If you have their contact information then you can take the initiative to contact them first and continue the conversation instead of waiting around.
When you meet someone, write down a quick note about what you two talked about. If you exchanged business cards, jot the highlight down on the back. Then, when you reach out you’ll have a personal touch to add. It can also help jog the other person’s memory (not that you aren’t memorable!).
Next time you go to a networking event, or even just meet someone you’d like to connect with, keep these tips in mind. By putting in a little extra effort and thought, you can grow and expand your network, ultimately expanding your firm.