Networking. It doesn’t have to be a dirty word. In fact, sometimes all you need is to arm yourself with the right stuff – the right mind stuff and the right physical stuff – to rock your business network meetings.
Here are five tips for doing just that:
1. Nix the limp-fish handshakes. A firm handshake expresses confidence and genuine interest in the other party. People will judge you by your handshake, so don’t dismiss this as unimportant. If you suffer from tentative or limp handshakes (or you’re not sure), then practice – find a friend or colleague you can trust, shake his or her hand, and then ask the person to rate the shake on a scale of 1 (limp fish) to 5 (shaking perfection). Adjust accordingly and practice some more.
2. Understand business cards and the power of two. Sure, you know that you should bring business cards to networking meetings, but when you swap business cards, always offer two. Why? Because that way, the person can keep one for herself AND have an extra to use when she wants to give your info to someone else. (And be sure to ask for two in return.)
3. Remember that you’re a walking billboard for your business. At large networking events, such as business expos, you might not get a chance to talk to everyone, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be seen. Your apparel can be a great way to (silently) promote your business (and this is a great idea for people in the trades, like electricians, landscapers, IT techs, etc.) Custom T-shirts and/or custom hats with your logo and business name can work well. If you’re worried that T-shirts are too casual, there’s plenty of cool promotional apparel, including items you can customize, like polo golf shirts.
4. Non-verbal gestures matter. It’s been said that at least 60 percent of human communication derives from body language (90 percent if you include the tone of your voice). Make eye contact. Smile. When you’re talking to someone, do NOT let your eyes wander to see who else is in the room. When you’re sitting at a round table, sit up straight and/or lean into the table as people are talking (especially those folks who are sitting across from you). Avoid sitting back and crossing your arms. Look alive and happy to be there.
5. Know your spiel. Go to your business networking meetings armed with the following: a 10-second description of your business, a 30-second description, and a full one-minute description. Unless you’re remarkably gifted with ad libbing, we recommend scripting all three well in advance of your meetings, trying them out on employees, colleagues, or friends, and practicing them until you’re comfortable and they flow off your tongue. At many meetings, such as Chamber of Commerce breakfast meetings and Business Networking International (BNI) meetings, you’re asked to stand up and introduce yourself. People will judge you, so come prepared and get comfortable with these mini commercials about your business.
How do you shine at business network meetings? Share your tips in the comments.