13 Mar 2016, 10:10 — 7 min read
One of the important aspects of entrepreneurship is ‘Networking’. Seminars, tradeshows, events, exhibitions and product demonstrations all have one thing in common - they are an opportunity to ‘Network’.
So whatever an entrepreneur does, it is extremely important to have good networking skills. Whether every event is useful in bringing new business, is difficult to say. But one can go prepared to meet new people, get new leads and above all, gain knowledge.
Here are some tips from my experience of attending several networking events over the years:
Wearing a suit is not enough. A well-coordinated attire is pleasing to the eye and plays a crucial role in making first impressions. First impressions are the best so make it last. If the seminar extends over multiple days, always have a new well ironed shirt or dress for each day.
Do not Carry your Luggage
It is better not to go directly to a seminar with your bag and baggage straight from the airport. Normally the hotel reception (if the seminar is in a hotel) will accept your bags to be kept in safe custody.
Do not Lug a Heavy Backpack
A backpack may be very convenient to carry your stuff and laptop. But in a networking event, it does not fit in. If you have one, keep it in a safe place and if you have papers keep them in a closed file.
You may get a pen and a notebook in the event but do not depend on it. Carry your own pen. You may also carry extra pens to lend to someone who did not bring their own pen. This is another great way to connect with someone and start a conversation. Also, always carry a small note book for making quick notes.
What is the best place to keep your business cards? I keep my professional cards always in my shirt pocket on the left. I keep other cards in my back pocket or in a separate envelope that I carry. If the person from whom I receive a card, had mentioned something special, I also write it down on the card so that I remember.
What’s in a Name?
When a card is received, take a moment to read it. May be the name is spelt different or may be the card has details of products and services in which you are interested. The person who gave you the card will also feel happy about the attention you are giving to them. Names are very personal and hence make sure these are spelt the right way and pronounced correctly. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask the person.
I had to meet the glare of someone who did not want an ‘H’ in his name whereas the common spelling of his name always had the letter ‘H’.
How to Start a Dialogue?
This is the tough part when you are meeting someone for the first time. If you can get an idea about their business from their business card, start with that topic. If you know someone else in the same business, mentioning that person’s name might help, but not always. I usually say, ‘Your business card is impressive and conveys what you do and I will like to know more about it’. Who does not like to talk about themselves?
How to Stop a Dialogue and Move Over to Another Person?
In a networking session, never have an extended dialogue with one person alone. Not only will it prevent you from meeting more people, you may also earn the wrath of the person!
What Do you Do When you Meet the Same Person Again?
You have just concluded speaking to someone and have moved on to meet others. There are chances that you might meet the same person again, perhaps during the coffee break. You may exchange a few smiles but won’t have much to speak! To avoid an uncomfortable situation, you can introduce him to another contact whom you may have befriended by now.
After the Event
Always make the first move and send a mail to the contacts you made in the networking event. However, based on my own experience, do not expect replies!
Don’t Look Busy
I have seen many a times, those who attend a seminar, will be seen busy on the phone. Do not forget the objective – to meet new people. Being constantly on the phone, will not help. A coffee break is an opportunity to make new contacts but if you pick up your phone to call your office, you’ll lose this opportunity.
What to Talk & What not to
Sometimes, we may be tongue tied in front of a more talkative person. Have something ready to say always. Have your LCDs or also referred as Little Chunks of Details, ready. It could be about your business, or something recent. It is not advisable to talk about politics or other controversial subjects.
Some of us may not be that fluent in English and hence may seek only those who speak the same tongue. A networking event will bring people from all parts of the country and the world. Practice fluency in English to improve your confidence in speaking to anybody.
What Should be the Posture
Do not stand very close to a person while speaking to him/her. You may be invading their personal space. Be at a comfortable distance and in a manner that there is enough room for a third person to join the conversation. Of course, pay attention to personal hygiene also. Always have some mouth fresheners and make sure you are wearing that deodorant!
Where to Sit
I have seen many people sit in the last row near the door so that it is easy to make an exit. However, it defeats the purpose of networking. One can befriend more people by sitting in the middle rows.
Participate in Break-out Sessions
In an event, there might be special sessions held on different topics of interest. Try to participate in these as it gives an opportunity to express your views and also to meet more people.
Chance to Speak
If there is an opportunity to speak or to ask a question, do not hesitate to seize it. Some preparation helps. Do not start arguing in the event, even if the answer you got is not what you wanted.
Do not Boss Around
It is always better to be polite and humble, irrespective of one’s official position. If you have your subordinates also in the same session, this is not the time to show them that you are the boss!
I hope these tips are useful as I am sure many of you will have more to add.
Posted bySridhar Narayanaswamy
Managing partner of Innovatus Systems, founded by him on January 1, 2013. Sridhar is a result oriented professional with over four decades in the Information Technology &...