On the heels of Arabnet, some advice on networking:
As an entrepreneur, you attend a lot of networking events and over the past two years I have learned a bit on what it takes to really network. Here are some tips for making the right impression next time you attend a networking event.
- The other person is just as shy and afraid as you are. The first 20 minutes or so of any networking event are the most awkward. You feel all alone, and you are hoping that someone would just come up to you and say something. Remember that everyone else in the room is feeling that way, no matter how confident they may seem; people are expecting strangers to come up and introduce themselves. Once you remember that, you will be able break the ice and start meeting some people.
- Networking is not selling, it is connecting. If you are going to such events with the mentality of promoting your business, you are making a big mistake. Of course, you want people to know what you do, but that is only half of the conversation. Try finding some common interests and ask questions, don’t just give statements. Often when I meet people, they have marketing and social media questions. Answering them and helping them is a great way to network, because entrepreneurship is all about sharing knowledge.
- Don’t forget your smile, positive energy and business card. At many events you can spot the happy energetic individuals immediately; these are the networking magnets that everyone wants to talk to. Make sure you are one of them. Smile and watch your body language. Don’t fold your arms too much, because it can signal subtly that you are a closed person.
- Walk around. Never stay in the same place for too long. Most importantly, you want to locate where the best food is, because that is where almost everybody will be. Check the attendee list and photos before you arrive, so that you can immediately find people you are looking for. If there are going to be any speeches or sales pitches, make sure you meet with people before their speech.
- Follow up. Just because the event is over, it doesn’t mean the work is done. Write a follow-up thank you letter or email. If you promised someone you would call, write it down on your agenda and, well, call them.
- Have fun, enjoy your time, and remember that one meaningful meeting with someone is worth a hundred instances of ”Hello and how are you?”
Think of every networking event as an opportunity for you to become more confident and to develop your skills at approaching people. In time, you’ll get the hang of it. I still feel shy sometimes, but I am working on it and I hope you do too.