How to Get the Most out of Business Networking

by WorkFromHome on December 8, 2011

A good number of articles written about business networking would have the reader believe that the key to success in business networking is simply to dress sharp, show up, and smile. That overly simplistic approach, however, is almost entirely wrong — and it’s why many business networking attendees leave the event with a bunch of business cards that they’ll never use. Similarly, it’s why many attendees give out all of their business cards and never get a single phone call about their qualifications or products.

That having been said, what are the keys to success at a business networking event? What do you need to know to leave with the strongest connections and prospects for future growth and development?

Smile and Be Friendly

It sounds overly simplistic, but it’s actually a pretty hard skill for a good number of people: smile honestly and be friendly to those you meet. Sure, the people in the room might be your competition, but each of them also presents an opportunity that could benefit both your business as well as their own. It’s important not to approach everyone you meet as a potential competitor, but instead to approach them as a potential friend.

Study after study shows that people respond well to a friendly approach; pair those studies with the ones who note that a smile is the first thing a new acquaintance sees and notices about you, and you’ll understand why these two things are important in making a good first impression. It’s well-known that you’re there for business — everyone is. But people want to know that you’re first and foremost a human being who can understand and connect with people — by they client or competition. And they want to like you.

Remember one of the primary rules of business: those who are well-liked are well-compensated. Make friends, and those friends will be willing to help you out in every stage of your career.

Attitude is Everything

If you go to a business networking event as cynical, competitive businessperson who expects to do nothing more than meet other cynic, competitive people in business, that’s exactly who you’ll meet. Networking is much like making friends in the real world: the type of person you are is the type of person you will attract. If you don’t want to attract uptight, super-competitive people to your circle, don’t act like one during your interactions with the group. If you don’t want to attack cynical people who harbor animosity toward the larger business occupation, don’t be one of those people.

Optimism is the key to success, both in business and business networking. A great attitude, full of possibility and confidence, will draw people who feel the same way. And their optimistic attitude will make them want to work with you — because they’ll see exactly how two optimistic people can come together to create even better opportunities for each other. Focusing on the negative aspects of the profession will only attract negative attitudes and impossible acquaintances; being positive will help attract people who are always looking up — and moving up.

Don’t Make the Business Card Your Focus

Finally, it’s important to remember that your business card is an accessory — not the star of the show .All too often, people attend networking events under the impression that you simply have to hand out a business card to the largest number of fellow attendees possible, and the information on that card will do the rest of the work itself. Many business networking novices expect that their business card will speak for itself and save them the hassle of introductions. This is false.

A business card should serve as a reminder of who you are when the person has left the event. And until they leave that event — or at least until they leave your sphere of influence — you should be the star. Not your business card. Talk about yourself, add depth to the information on your business card, and talk about where you want to end up — and how you hope your business card’s information will help that happen. When someone you meet looks at your business card a few days or weeks after the event, they should immediately remember your smile, your personality, and your ambitions. And they’ll call you — because that’s all your business card is good at dong: reminding your acquaintances of why you should be their next phone call.

Conclusions

Business networking is relatively easy if it is approached as a great opportunity to spend a day smiling and making friends. It’s not merely a professional event, and it’s not merely something to be slogged through until it is — thankfully — over and done with. Business networking, when done properly, can be the difference between a stagnant career and an ascendant one.

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