The purpose of professional networking is to build business relationships within the parameters of your industry. In-person networking has stood its ground despite the growing popularity of social networks that facilitate professional networking online like LinkedIn.
Even with these online tools available, an astonishing 70% of professionals value face-to-face networking more than its electronic counterparts. Research shows that social cues such as facial expression and inflection make in-person networking a more positive experience.
Here are the basics you need to know before you start networking.
What Do You Need?
Networking is all about making connections that are meaningful to you and your business. When you attend a networking event it’s imperative that you are proactive – the best results come from actively seeking out what you want. Bring business cards in addition to a polished LinkedIn page. While LinkedIn is good way to solidify a connection, experts suggest that it’s best to be prepared to connect with someone who is not LinkedIn user. If you only come with one or the other, you risk losing the opportunity to connect.
Where Should You Go?
There is an abundance of networking events available at any given time. It’s beneficial to sift through future events and pick the ones that serve your business best. You can check websites like Facebook and Eventbrite for events happening around you.
While designated networking events are a great opportunity that serve a clear purpose, there are other useful options that aren’t explicitly labeled a “networking event.” Consider trade shows, conferences, seminars, or any other event that calls for the mixing and socializing of industry professionals. Approximately 38% of networkers said bars and restaurants are ideal networking venues.
Who Are You Looking For?
Have a predetermined idea of who it is you’re hoping to find, whether it’s prospects or vendors. You should also have a clear idea of what you and your business have to offer other companies.
Don’t rush to meet everyone in attendance, seek out connections that propose value and spend some time talking. Mike Fishbein, author and business founder, says when networking, “instead of trying to meet 50 people that you’ll never talk to again, try to meet just one person who will become a lifelong relationship.”
When Is the Best Time?
Experts agree that networking is most important when you’re starting a business or a new phase of your operation. Networking should be done sporadically throughout the year by strategically planning various events to attend. It’s okay to build your connections slowly but take the time to follow up and nourish relationships afterwards.
Why Should You Network?
There are many benefits to networking. It allows professionals to build a reliable group of contacts that offer value to their business. It’s a personal way to insert your company into industry conversation and increase brand awareness.
Networking at the very least is an opportunity to learn. It gives you the ability to discover trends, challenges, and changes in your industry.