I recently heard the expression that ‘your network equals your net worth’. It struck me as being very true. As business owners we need to be constantly building our network of people who might buy from us. There really is no such thing as knowing too many people! As a new business owner, I’ve been attending a lot of events. I created some guidelines for myself in order to get the most out of the time that I spend at networking events.

I will share with you 10 networking tips that have worked for me.

1. Know where to find events

There are so many events happening right under your nose once you know where to look! I keep a list of organizations and networking groups and check the calendar of events for each of them on a regular basis. You may want to check with your Chamber of Commerce, Eventbrite.com, Meetup.com, and even Facebook. Bookmark the websites so you can check back frequently to see what is going on.

2Create time in your schedule each week for networking events

Every Friday afternoon I look at the next week’s schedule and make sure that I have booked at least two networking events. If I don’t have any events scheduled, I search for interesting events to attend. These events are non-negotiable business activities. Meeting other entrepreneurs and potential clients is a must for business growth so once these events are in my calendar I commit to them.

3. Do your homework

Learn as much about the event as you can before you attend. What type of group is it? Who attends? Why do you think this meeting is worthy of your time?

4. Set goals for each event

You don’t have to meet every person in the room. If you are shy and find it difficult to speak to strangers, set yourself a goal of talking to one or two new people at each event. You don’t need to set any networking records for the person who talks to the most people at each event!

5. Arrive early

For many of us, networking is difficult. We struggle to put ourselves out there to meet new people and talk about what we do. We often arrive late to events thinking that if we slip into a crowded room, no one will notice us and we won’t have to talk to anyone. Although this may be true, it goes against the reason why you are attending in the first place. If you think about it, it is more difficult to enter a crowded room and to find someone who is not already engaged in conversation than it is to enter a near empty room and walk up to the one other person who has arrived early and is also alone. I now try to be one of the first to arrive at an event.

6. Have some conversation openers

We usually always ask people “So what do you do?” Try framing the question a little differently. Ask “What brings you here today?” or “what are you hoping to get out of this event?” You will sound more interesting than if you ask the same question as everyone else. As a result, the answer will likely be more interesting as well!

7. Bring your business cards

I’m amazed at how many people forget to bring business cards to networking events! Make sure you have some with you. People tend to keep business cards so they are a great way to make an impact. Ask for the business cards of the people that you meet. You will know who you were talking with!

8. Follow up after the event

Connect with people after the event. Like their Facebook page. Follow them on Twitter. Connect on LinkedIn. Send a personal message. I like to follow up with a note card saying it was a pleasure to meet them and I look forward to seeing them at the next event. Also, invite someone that you met for coffee. Get to know them a little better. Next time you see them at an event, you will recognize some friendly faces. It’s also a chance to follow up on ideas that were discussed, form partnerships and discover opportunities that may benefit both of you.

9. Measure success

When you leave the event, ask yourself if it was a success and if you achieved your goals. Did you talk to someone new? Did you make at least one valuable connection? Did you learn something interesting? If the answer is yes, pat yourself on the back. If the answer is no, why not? Were you too shy or not confident enough to approach someone? What can you improve upon so the next time will be a little easier?

10. Keep going!

I know it can feel uncomfortable. But you’re not alone. Many people in the room consider themselves introverts and would rather crawl under a rock than to be standing in a room full of people. Be friendly and smile. Radiate positive energy and be the person that everyone wants to meet!

Do you have any networking tips? Share them with me! I would love to learn more about the art of networking!

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