Networking For Beginners: 15 tips for getting the most out of a networking event

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by Tom Watson on May 18, 2014

While many people know that joining a networking group is a good idea for gaining exposure, sadly not everyone knows how to make the best use of them when attending.

This is because there really isn’t any training manual when you sign up. This leads many people to just wander around aimlessly or worse, just sit by themselves.

This explains why some people seem to get so much out of networking while others get discouraged and quit before making any headway. Needless to say we are going to try to change that by pointing you in the right direction. Let’s get started!

15 Networking Tips For Beginners

When you are new every little tidbit of information can help you out, so with that in mind I’ve assembled my top 15 tips for getting the most out of your networking efforts. If you think I’ve missed any or have a good one of your own, feel free to leave a comment when done reading.

Networking Tip # 1 – Prepare a “30 second commercial”

Preparation begins BEFORE ever arriving. Create a 30 second commercial that summarizes who you are and how you can help your target market. Have it ready for when everyone introduces themselves. It can be shorter than 30 seconds, just don’t go longer or you’ll risk losing their attention. An example would go like this:

“Good afternoon everyone, my name is Michael Davis and I’m the owner of Pro Shine Cleaning Service. We specialize in commercial cleaning, carpet cleaning and window cleaning. We service the entire metro area. Naturally we provide free estimates and we’ll work hard if hired. If you need anything, even if it’s just a question about how to clean something, contact me and I’ll help you out”.

The KEY to speaking effectively revolves around speaking with “sincerity”, so above all just be YOURSELF. So many people want to try to figure out WHO to act like when in fact it’s THEMSELVES they need to be! So get up there, speak with conviction and you will be just fine. People want and crave authenticity, and being true to who you are delivers that.

Networking Tip # 2 – Dress for success

At the end of the day you will judged by how you appear. Sorry, but that’s life and there’s really nothing you can do about it, other than simply ACCEPTING IT. So if you want to be taken seriously as a new business owner – and be PAID like one – then look your best. Your future earnings depend on it.

Networking Tip # 3 – Bring flyers with you

Many networking groups allow you to place your contact information at a common table with everyone else. Make the best use of it by preparing a flyer that you can leave at the table.

Make sure to attach your business cards to them. For best results include a special offer of some kind on the flyer. Remember to pick up the flyers that are not taken off the table when the meeting ends or they will get thrown away.

Networking Tip # 4 – Don’t be late for the meeting

Showing up late sends the wrong message to the people you want (and need) to impress. So do your best to arrive early if possible. Getting there late also cuts into your networking time. Besides, odds are you spent a few bucks to join and you want to be a success right? If so take it seriously. If you don’t no one will take you seriously!

Networking Tip # 5 – Be as active as possible

Try to meet, and talk to, as many people as time will allow. You may not get to everyone, but do your best to make the best use of the time available. Your mission is to GET NOTICED by as many people as possible.

Networking Tip # 6 – Collect other people’s business cards

Make a habit of asking for a business card from every new person you meet. This is a good practice that allows you to have their card handy in case you need to contact them down the road. It’s also a great idea because it offers the perfect opportunity for you to do the same.

Networking Tip # 7 – Give your business card to everyone

Bring a bunch of business cards and don’t be shy about handing them out. Though the vast majority of the cards you give out may never yield any results, that’s beside the point. Business cards are meant to be given out freely, so make the best use of them by doing just that.

Networking Tip # 8 – Spread yourself around

If you are at a breakfast or lunch meeting try to sit with different people every time you go. Doing so keeps you out of your comfort zone plus you get the added benefit of talking to and making friends with more members. Far too many people do the opposite which only limits who they meet and get to know.

Networking Tip # 9 – Don’t sell. “Inform and educate”

Beginners to the networking environment often see those that attend the meetings as their potential customers. Sometimes that is the case, as over time some people in the group may hire you, but that’s not the norm. The real power of networking is that those in the group know who you are.

Odds are they KNOW OF OTHERS who may need your services. So your goal isn’t really to try to get everyone in the group to buy what you are selling, though some might, but it’s to create an army of people who may REFER YOU down the road.

Networking Tip # 10 – Think of others

Now that you know the importance of building an army of people who may think of referring your company, you need to return the favor and THINK OF THEM. Maybe you meet someone who installs gutters and you know your neighbor is looking for someone who installs gutters. When that happens play matchmaker!

Networking Tip # 11 – Be consistent in your efforts

Once you join a group you need to be someone who attends all the meetings regularly. Showing up one week and skipping the next one adds up to a colossal waste of your time and money. Missing the occasional meeting is normal and to be expected, but if you think you will get results by going part-time, think again!

I wanted to make mention of this because so many people make that mistake. The reason why a part-time effort fails boils down to people viewing you as “unreliable” in a sense. If you can’t make it to meetings regularly maybe you aren’t’ “referral worthy”. Remember, people go out on a limb to refer someone in a sense, and they want to make sure those they refer are rock solid.

Networking Tip # 12 – Be a good listener

A well-balanced conversation has an ebb and flow to it. It’s a little “give and take”. So if you go out there and just do all the talking, without giving others a chance to speak, people will catch on and eventually start avoiding you. The goal for you is to listen more than you talk. You’ll come out ahead in the long-run with that approach.

Networking Tip # 13 – Think long-term

Just because you join a group and go for three weeks in a row DOES NOT mean the phone will start ringing off the hook with new business. That’s not how it works! Building a network takes time, so don’t get frustrated. Just put your hard hat on and keep showing up.

Networking Tip # 14 – Join more than one group

Networking groups come in all shapes and sizes. Some will be small, others large with a WHOLE bunch somewhere in the middle. Join as many as you can find the time for. Remember… you are trying to creating an army of people who may refer you, and the more folks you know the more success you will have.

Networking Tip # 15 – Raffle something off

Many of the groups I’ve been in have a raffle of some kind from time to time. For instance in one of my groups we have a member who promotes cosmetics products. Her company just had a new line of products come out. What did she do to create some buzz around the products?

Well she asked everyone in the group to throw their business card in to a bowl then she went ahead and picked three winners. People eat this stuff up plus it’s cheap, smart and very effective! Be creative and come up with something. It could be a free cleaning, or a cleaning product of some kind. Just a little thought will give you plenty of ideas!

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ruthie galles May 19, 2014 at 12:35 am

this is ruthie galles hi how are you doing , not quit she what the networking groups are , and how to find and attend some thank you for all the advice

2 carmen mercado May 19, 2014 at 1:06 am

hi tom I follow your advice closely ,but where and how do I find out about meetings and how do I join ?? thank you

3 Carol May 19, 2014 at 9:05 am

Thanks for the great reminder Tom. I find that networking is a huge source of referrals for me. You are right though you cannot go once and think everyone knows who and where you are. I attend regularly and become involved in the group, ask what you can do for the group. People will do business with others who they know, like and trust so get to know them with 1 on 1’s. I always give a door prize at the ones that do a raffle. If you cannot see a group in your area then start one (I have done that as well). Love networking and finding out about others and getting me known as the ‘expert’ in my field, the one they turn to. Have a great week everyone 🙂

4 Tom Watson May 19, 2014 at 10:34 am

Thanks for sharing that Carol! Starting your own group is a GREAT idea too.

5 Tom Watson May 19, 2014 at 10:43 am

Hi Carmen! Your local Chamber of Commerce would be a start. We joined that first then from there we realized that many of those members were in smaller groups that met at different times so we joined them too. Also… many towns have “neighborhood business associations” that you can join.

6 Tom Watson May 19, 2014 at 10:46 am

Hi Ruthie! Start with the Chamber of Commerce, as they are found almost everywhere. I would also “Google” the term networking groups (or “BNI” and “Letip”) to give you some ideas.

7 Carol May 21, 2014 at 5:12 pm

I joined the Local Chamber of Commerce as they have a weekly ‘Leads’ meeting then another great way of finding out what groups are in your area is to look on http://www.meetup.com You can select an area and type of groups you want to join, often for free or a minimum fee..
Carol

8 Tom Watson May 22, 2014 at 10:03 am

Hi Carol! Thanks for sharing that on the Chamber of Commerce. Also… I’ve seen that link you mentioned too. GREAT idea!

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