In business, personal connections are everything. People prefer to do business with those who are recommended by people they know. In a recent Nielsen report a staggering 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it from friends and family and 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family more than all other forms of marketing.
As trust in advertising declines, word of mouth marketing via social networks has become the most effective means of building a loyal base of brand ambassadors. That means…more engagement and more revenue for your brand.
The ability to network, and network well, is one of the biggest factors in business and personal success. Peta Di Palma, who founded Tribe Side Networking offers her top 5 tips on making sure networking events give you a good return on the time invested:
- PLAN AHEAD: Before you attend a networking event, think about the true reason you’re there. The overall point of a business-networking event is to establish and develop business connections. Target your connections and set a goal to identify who you need to know and who needs to know you. Who are the decision makers and key influencers? Where can I meet them? How do I get into their circles? What is it I want from this networking event?
- MINDSET: It only takes a moment’s conscious decision to become a networker. All it requires is a slight shift in attitude, and adopting one simple trifurcated rule:
- Great each new acquaintance with an openness to learn more about that person.
- Have a willingness to help, and
- Offer to stay in touch
Your ultimate goal of networking should be to help other people. Networking is a two way street and your side of the street is all about helping others, not asking them to help you! When you approach others with a willingness to learn more about the person and add some value to them, the favour is returned in spades.
- PREPARE QUESTIONS: Have a few targeted, engaging questions prepared ahead of time and stay informed with current events. Before the event have some “back pocket” or “handbag” conversation topics handy. Pick 3-5 items to use as emergency re-starter in case the conversation starts to drag. You need to move past the “where are you from?” and “So, what brings you here today?” quickly. Some of the questions you can ask to keep conversations going are:
- Just out of curiosity, Why do you attend networking events? When you start a conversation with “Just out of curiosity” most people will move towards you.
- What do you like best about what you do? This is two questions in one – this also asks the question, “So what do you do?” This question, unlike the same old, What do you do, gets people in conversation mode rather than just giving you a short answer.
- When did you get started in that direction? This gives your new contact a chance to tell a story and people love telling stories about themselves.
- Who can I help you meet? Now that you have made a connection, this is the time to show you care. People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Listen for the types of people they want to meet that you can introduce them to later or at the same event.
- ALLOW TIME: Unless it’s a speed-networking event, don’t hop from one conversation to another in a matter of minutes. The first five minutes of a conversation at a networking event usually involve introductions and polite chitchat. When you take the time to truly connect with someone, you begin to form the foundation of a professional relationship. The strength and longevity of your business relationships will depend more on the quality of your connections than the quantity. When you find the right connections, stay and chat for a while. You might find your effortsmore effective if you choose to speak to a handful of individuals than 20 If they are not the right connections, observe the five-minute rule and move on politely!
- LISTEN: Not only is effective listening one of the most important things you can learn to do, it is also one of the most important elements of networking. Be present and take it in.
I want to give a big thanks to Peta for providing some great tips. I will certainly be using them at my next event, how about you?