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Networking for New Starts

Some thoughts on the wonderful world of networking from Eugene Clarke of TalkBuddy

You’ve done it! You’ve started your first business and you’re ready to get out there and tell the world about it.
And so you go along to your first networking event and… you realise you’ve no idea what to do or how to behave.
It’s a feeling many of us have had so we’ve put together some tips to help you become a successful networker and gain the business relationships you’re looking for.
1. Who to Talk To?
It can be pretty intimidating to enter a room full of people who all seem to know each other and are chatting away. This is where you can use some knowledge of body language. Look at how the people in a group are standing in relation to each other. If a couple are standing directly facing each other the chances are they are having a conversation that they don’t want to be interrupted. If, on the other hand, they are standing at an angle it’s a sign they would welcome someone to join them
Similarly if it’s a group of three, look to see if they are standing in a closed triangle pattern or a V shape. If the former leave them to it; if the latter go across and join them.
2. What to Say for Openers
Think about some lines you can use to strike up a conversation. Effective openers give the person you’re addressing the opportunity to reply with more than just ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Try openers like these

  • This is my first time at one of these events, what are they like?
  • I see XXX is giving a talk later on, do you know what topics he’ll be covering?

Or you can use something about the person you’re addressing. Maybe they’re holding a book you’ve read, or perhaps they’re eating something you haven’t tried.
4. Listening and Follow Up Questions
Once you’ve found your way into a conversation things should start to flow more easily. However, as a fall-back you can always rely on questions like, ‘So tell me a little more about…’ and ‘you mentioned you did such-and-such, how did that go?’ Basically, instead of worrying about what you should be saying, concentrate on other people. That way, they’ll think you’re the friendliest and most interested person there and you’ll get to know plenty about them, and whether you could work together in the future.
5. Once You Get Going…
You’ve listened to everyone else and now people are asking you what you do. Cue: the pitch – this is definitely something you should practise beforehand. Start by identifying three key things about your business that you’d like people to know.
Your pitch should be short, succinct and honest. Don’t blow your own trumpet more than it needs blowing but if you’ve achieved something in your work recently, slip it into the pitch naturally. Your pitch should ideally be about 20-30 seconds long – explain what you do, who you do it for and what you’re working on.
6. Moving On
While you shouldn’t try to speak to everyone in the room, don’t be afraid to hand your business card over, thank the person for their time and then move on.  It’s not like a party where the other person may be offended – networkers expect to have several conversations.
7. After the Event
If you made some useful contacts, drop them an email a day or so after the event to say how much you enjoyed talking and that hopefully you can do business in the future. It’ll be appreciated and keep you at the forefront of the recipient’s mind.
It’s a good idea to jot down on the back of their business card the details of the event – it can be a way of starting the conversation if you meet them again.
If you have a database or contacts list update it as soon as you can.
8. And Remember….
Keep these thoughts in mind:

  1. I will enjoy this event and have some real fun
  2. I plan to talk to 3 new people and gain 3 new pieces of information or gossip
  3. I will get myself in the right state. …AND NOT “A RIGHT STATE”.
  4. Everyone here wants to network. They want to meet me just as much as I want to meet them.
  5. I’m a decent and likeable person; I believe in myself and, in my area, I have much knowledge and expertise.

TalkBuddy™ offers advice and support to help business people talk more effectively and has special services for new businesses. Eugene Clarke can be contacted at eugene@talkbuddy.co.uk