The BDC Small Business Week is October 20th through 26th this year, which means there will be many networking and learning events to attend. As a small business owner, it is imperative that you add a few of these events to your calendar. This is a week of gaining new connections, making contacts and learning about other businesses — all while sharing about your own. Here are some networking tips to help you make every event count.
Take these networking tips to the bank
Networking is so much more than attending an event. Follow these steps to get the most out of Small Business Week 2019.
- Business cards.
- How to dress.
- In your pockets.
- Communication tips.
- The escape.
- Follow up.
Your networking success depends on what you do with the contacts and information that you have gathered. Be sure to follow-up after each event you attend.
First on our list of networking tips happens before you even get to the event. To ensure you get what you want out of each one, create a plan of action before attending. Start by answering these questions:
- Why are you going?
- What are you going to tell people about you and your business?
- What outcome are you expecting?
- How many new contacts do you want to leave with?
- How can you help others in the room grow their businesses?
These five questions should help you get focused before each Small Business Week event.
2. Business cards
People need to know how to find you afterwards and a great business card can give them all the information they need. Make sure you include:
- Your business name
- Your name
- All the contact information that you would like a new connection to have
Always bring more business cards than you think you will give away. Even doubling your stash is a great idea.
Pro tip: If you want people to keep your business card (not throw it away), add your professional headshot to the front. People have a hard time throwing out photos; they are more likely to keep your business card just because there is a photo of you on it.
3. How to dress
When attending a networking event, it is important to dress the part. But this doesn’t mean that you must go out and purchase a three-piece suit.
If you are someone who wears little makeup, don’t cake on the blush for the event. If you are a man who doesn’t normally wear a tie or a sports jacket, don’t wear them because you think it’s what will win you a client.
Make sure your attire represents your business. If you are not a fitness coach, then sweats and your hair in a ponytail just won’t cut it. Choose clothes that make you feel good and that are comfortable. Oh, and make sure you wear either a jacket or pants with pockets.
4. In your pockets
One of my favorite networking tips is really kind of smart.
Ideally, you’ll have a left and a right pocket in your jacket or pants. Whatever hand you write with, that pocket becomes your ‘Must connect’ pocket. The opposite pocket becomes your ‘Nice to meet you but I’m not interested in working with you’ pocket.
Keep your business cards in your ‘Must connect’ pocket, as this is the easiest way to hand out your cards.
You will meet people that you will probably not want to connect with after the event.
With the cards of the people you don’t wish to connect with, you can send them a nice, quick ‘it was nice to meet you, good luck with your business’ email or feel free to give the cards a home elsewhere.
Pro tip: Make sure you ask for someone’s card prior to handing them your card. This shows you are interested in them and what they have to offer.
5. Communication tips
Want to win new contacts? Simply be the one to ask them about their business first. Here are a few questions to start:
- What’s your name?
- What does your business do?
- How do you help your customers solve problems?
- Why did you decide to go into your line of work?
- How can I help you grow your business?
Asking questions and remembering the answers, especially their name, will win you big points with the contact. This kind of attention creates an instant connection.
Pro tip: Be sincere and give them your undivided attention while in the conversation. This makes for the perfect beginning to a new relationship.
6. The escape
As mentioned above in networking tip No. 4, you will probably meet people you would not do business with.
You need a way of politely excusing yourself from conversations that aren’t relevant to your business.
The best way to do this is to allow them to finish their thought, reply with an answer and add:
“It was great to meet you and I enjoyed getting to know you. I’m going to head over there [pointing in a direction] to meet a few more people.”
With this sentence, not only have you ended the conversation, but you have complimented them twice. This will leave them with a smile and not a bad taste in their mouth.
7. Follow up
Once the event is over, it’s very important that you follow-up with your new contacts 24 to 48 hours afterwards.
This is not the time to try and sell your offer. This is a time to thank them for connecting with you and to inquire about meeting for coffee, a phone call or simply a response via email. Begin to create a relationship with those who sparked an interest within you.
Every introduction is a new beginning
Networking is all about creating relationships, helping others and building a network. Remember:
- Make your networking about the other people in the room
- Be prepared to talk about yourself
- Stand confident in who you are and what you do
- Don’t forget to follow-up with those you meet
Follow these networking tips this year at Small Business Week and you are bound to come away with some great contacts … and possibly a new client or two.