So now that you have cool business cards, bet you can’t wait to use them. They’re just burning a hole in your shirt pocket. Who wants one? They’re free to the first 250 people you meet.
There’s a bunch of people eager to get their hands on your cards. You can find them at a local networking event. You know one of those stuffy Chamber of Commerce mixers. Or maybe a locally-organized Tweetup is more your style.
Networking events offer a great chance to get to know who’s in your community and introduce yourself. To do it right, you need more than just your cards and a firm handshake. Take a killer elevator pitch.
You know the theory. If you happen to share an elevator ride with a potential investor, client or employer, you only have the time it takes to get to their floor to make your sales pitch.
Probably the most important thing to remember is not to say what you do but what value your employer or clients get from you. Would you rather speak to someone who says “I sell business insurance” or “I help businesses prevent disasters.” Yes, it’s semantics peppered with hubris. Again I ask. Who is more likely to interest you?
Almost as important as what you bring is what you should check at the door. I’m talking about the traits and tendencies that will get in the way as you make your way around the room. You want to stand out for all the right reasons.
The great thing about being at a networking event is that everyone is there to network. They want to meet people like you because you want to meet people like them. Circular logic I know. But it works very well.
So relax. Just introduce yourself and give them your best elevator pitch.
An empty hand
Grab a drink. I’m not recommending alcohol. That’s your choice. It doesn’t affect everyone the same way. But a drink helps you two ways.
First, it gives you something to do with one hand. Makes you look more relaxed which will help you relax. That will make it easier for you to mix.
Second, you’re probably going to be talking more than usual. You’re mouth will get a bit dry. A little hydration will help you speak more naturally.
So what do you do after you’ve exchanged elevator pitches and don’t seem to have much more to say? Try these five questions to keep the conversation rolling:
- What do you like most about what you do?
- You mentioned that you were in [industry]. What got you started in that direction?
- Where else do you usually network?
- What are some of your biggest challenges?
- How can I help you?
These questions are a great way to keep people talking and to learn something. If you find yourself going through all five questions without much input from yourself, they’re going to remember you as a great conversationalist.
Your sales pitch
I know the real reason you’re going is to build business. And the people in the room want to build business. So why can’t we make a deal or two?
That’s the equivalent of a one-night stand instead of a lasting, meaningful relationship.
These events are chances to start relationships. Once you leave the event, you have the opportunity to keep in touch with people
After the event
Like I said, this is the start of a relationship so you’re not done networking once you leave the room.
- Review your cards: I tell my fiance about the people I meet and show her the cards I collect. This helps reinforce my memories of the meetings.
- Create a database of contacts: I enter their card information and link to their social media profiles in Gmail’s contacts. I can sync that up to the Contact app on my iPod Touch so I have the names with me. Choose the contact manager that works best for your organizational style.
- Put a face to their entry: If I find a social media profile – LinkedIn or Facebook – it’s very likely there’s a photo. Gmail lets me link from their photo to the Contacts entry. It helps me remember who they are.
- Follow through: You need to keep contact with the people you meet. Don’t rely on catching up with them at the next event. It’s probably impossible to do this for everyone who gives you a card. So contact only the people you create the strongest connections with. Or follow up with the people you meet for the second time at an event. Create a strategy you can maintain.
- Don’t spam: Yes, I said it’s important to database these introductions and keep in contact. That doesn’t mean they want your company newsletter or sales pitches. A business card is not an opt-in transaction. If you are going to follow up, be human.
- Repeat: Keep it up. These events become much easier the more times you do it. Mostly because you start recognizing people and you enjoy catching up with them. That familiarity will give you the confidence to keep meeting new people.
Soon, you’re going to need to reorder those awesome business cards.
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