Nowadays, networking is the key to success in virtually any field of expertise. This holds true not only with regard to platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook. In the digital era, social networking still relies heavily on personal meet-and-greets. A few minutes of pleasant small talk oftentimes lay the foundation for long-term business relationships. Therefore, aspiring entrepreneurs should use in-person events to their advantage. This article shares five tricks that help you to make a great first impression and thereby expand the reach of your brand.
1. Come prepared and bring gifts
If you want to initiate an interesting conversation, you need the right answers as much as the right questions. Before attending an event, research the background of fellow attendees so that you will have plenty of material to cover. Aside from professional achievements and goals, shared hobbies and interests may prove equally useful. However, you should remember that your counterpart will probably meet countless other people after talking to you. In order to leave a lasting impression, you should hand out small but memorable give-aways before moving on to the next conversation. Merchandising articles suitable for in-person events include:
- flyers and brochures
- pens and notebooks with your company’s corporate design
- business cards.
The latter hold particular significance, as they provide the most important information at one glance and fit into any coat pocket or wallet and they are the easiest way to stay in touch after the event. Choosing your individual layout, font, and colouring, you are thus able to present your whole corporate identity on a small piece of paper.
2. Communicate without words
Sometimes, a certain posture or facial expression literally says more than a thousand words. You should therefore pay great attention to your overall appearance during in-person events. This includes questions such as:
- What do I wear: formal business attire or a more casual outfit?
- How often do I smile or laugh?
- Does my body language send positive signals?
Throughout the gatherings, you should refrain from crossing your arms or slouching forward. An erect and open posture indicates that you feel confident and are open to new encounters. In addition, keep your hands moving to underline your arguments and catch the interest of your listeners.
3. Bring a friend, make a friend
Entering a room filled with strangers can seem terrifying to even the most experienced CEOs. Hence, you should prepare yourself not only professionally, but also emotionally. If possible, show up at the event together with someone from another company that you already know. Such an accomplice makes it easy to mingle with the crowd and may furthermore drop some complimentary remarks about your own business here and there. This way, you can help each other to present yourselves in the best light without boasting too much. Having a familiar face by your side also sets the tone for relaxed and informal conversations. In general, you must never attend events with the aim of scoring huge business deals. This mindset will only make you more nervous and less successful in the end. Your only proclaimed goal should be to make at least one new friend – once that is accomplished, the rest will happen in due time.
4. Stay true to yourself
While you may certainly go in with a clear agenda, it is crucial that you not let it show at any given moment. The more your listeners sense that you just want to persuade them, the less they will engage. When you talk about your business, always stick to the mantra:
I’m here to share my ideas, not to sell my products.
In this regard, you should add a personal element to the conversation as often as possible. This does not mean that you have to elaborate on your private life in detail. But seemingly insignificant details such as a funny anecdote from your workplace or a comment about your beloved dog can do wonders when you seek to invest your own brand with emotional value.
5. Follow up on time
Last but definitely not least, keep in mind that the real networking takes place after the event. Unless you reach out to your new acquaintances ASAP, your refreshing appearance and stories will soon be forgotten. Therefore, make sure to contact the people you have met no later than 24 hours after the first encounter. You can simply send an email or a LinkedIn message, in which you express your gratitude and subtly remind them of the inspiring discussion you shared. After that, you should check in every few weeks until you have established a friendly relation that may form the basis for a joint business venture.