Business and networking go hand in hand and this is especially true for entrepreneurs.
Like many startup entrepreneurs, Nunzio Presta, founder of online social media company BizON, relies on online and in-person networking platforms to find the mentors, support providers and clients to grow his business. “Networking gives me the opportunity to learn from those who have been through what I am going through and who can help me to grow by business.”
How do you create lasting relationships that will help you to reach your goals? As with everything, there are techniques that we can use to make the most of networking.
Startup Canada, a cross-Canada entrepreneur network, surveyed its entrepreneur community to uncover some of the top tips and techniques that have proven to maximize networking.
1. Plan – You have been invited to a networking event and are pumped to meet new people . Before attending you need to ask yourself, why am I going to this event? What am I hoping to get from attending? Who is going to be there? How am I going to describe my business without taking too much time? What do you want from these new found relationships?
- Create a short pitch, roughly 20 seconds long, which describes your business in a nutshell. It should state who you are, what your business is, and why you are looking for new business relationships. This is not the time to sell your product or your service to others. This is a time to develop relationships.
- Dress appropriately for the event. You don’t have to wear a tuxedo or an evening gown to these events (unless the invitation does say so). However, people’s first impressions are based on how you present yourself. Make sure your clothing is neat and tidy, fits you well as while representing who you and your business are.
2. Be yourself – You get to the event and you notice a large group standing or sitting around talking. What do you do? Where do you go? Where do you begin? First, always remember to be yourself. Being authentic and genuine with others will help develop a stronger, longer lasting relationship with others.
“My very best advice is probably the same as your parents’ used to tell you; just be yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn how many people are interested in you” – Suzanne Grant, CEO of marketing firm 500 Startup Brands.
3. Meeting others – Depending on your personality, going up to someone you don’t know can be an easy, enjoyable moment or it can be a moment full of anxiety. Whichever is the case you will get through it. There are many around you who probably feel the same way.
- Go up to someone, smile and firmly shake their hand. Be aware of your body language which does reveal a lot about who you are. Try to be open and if you are not much of a talker, listening to what the other person has to say. Occasionally ask questions and again remember to be yourself while having a genuine conversation. You may surprise yourself by opening up a little more as you become more comfortable.
“We’re all connected somehow….look for it. Don’t be superficial with the connections you make, but dig deep. The conversation will lead to some way that you can help each other,” Bill Waters, owner of Waterloo-based firm, Dotzengaged Inc advises on making a connection.
- Be sure to bring your business cards with you. It will be the most important tool you will use to hand out to those you meet. When you receive other people’s business cards a great habit to learn is writing down notes on the back of the card to remind yourself what you discussed with the other person.
- The whole point of attending a networking event is to meet new people. Spend enough time, roughly 10-15 minutes, with each person before moving on. Sure some friends and peers may be there but try not to linger with them for too long. You are there to meet new people. Keep that goal in mind; you never know who you might meet.
According to the leader of Startup Canada’s local entrepreneur community in London, Ontario, Startup London‘s Quinn Lawson, who regularly runs Startup Drinks networking events for entrepreneurs, “You never know who you might meet. We have seen entrepreneurs hire developers and designers without going through the interview process through these networking events.”
4. Keeping in Touch – The event is over with, the stack of business cards you received are in your hand and you’re feeling on cloud nine. You met so people, many of whom you might wish to develop a relationship. The question that remains is now what?
- Relationships are something everyone needs to work on to maintain. If you want the relationship to continue to grow, you need to reach out and keep the conversation going. Follow up with the person as soon as you can via a phone call, email, social media post etc., mentioning something from the conversation you had with them during the event.
- Try not to make your follow up a one time deal. If possible invite the person out for lunch, even if it is lunch over Skype. See how they’re doing with their business and with life. Share your goals with each other. Encourage and push each other to reach those goals. Follow each other on social media while keeping each other updated. “Think about how to build relationships with others and what you can do for them, rather than what you can get from them right off the bat.” Kevin Young, communications expert at social media startup Slingshot. “It is not about short term gains, its about growing together.”
You never know where these new found relationships will lead you with your career or business. Be open and most importantly, enjoy the company.