Effective business networking is the bringing together of like minded individuals who, through relationship building, become walking, talking advertisements for one another.
Keep in mind that networking is about being bona fide, building trust, and seeing how your relationship can genuinely help others.
1. Have a specific goal for each networking activity. Always figure out before you even walk into a room, what your specific goals are in attending each networking meeting. This helps you to pick groups or associations that will help you get what you are looking for.
2. Ask open-ended questions during your networking conversations. Questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how. Try to avoid questions that require a simple yes or no response. By using this line of questioning you can open us the discussion and show listeners that you are interested.
3. Become a walking resource centre. When you become known as a strong resource, others remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. This keeps you at their "top of mind".
4. Have an effective and unique "elevator speech". Make sure it is prepared and that you know it like the back of your hand. An elevator speech is the commonly known as the response you would give in the amount of time it would take to reach the tenth floor in an elevator. Always rehearse your spiel and be genuine, so that you don't sound automated when you relay it to someone who asks what you do.
5. Be knowledgeable of current affairs. If you don't feel comfortable just rolling into a spiel when you first meet someone, have a back up topic to break the ice until you do.
6. Never have a goal of distributing business cards. Never just throw your business card at someone the minute you meet them, you must get to know the person and their business as well as explaining your business before you even contemplate a business card exchange. Some people will find you rude, pushy and unprofessional which will in turn reflect badly on your business.
7. Always follow up with your new contacts. Call or email them and let them know that you enjoyed meeting them. If possible mention things that you discussed on a more personal note (i.e. I hope you enjoyed that movie you were going to see that night.) people will come to know you as someone who listens, remembers them and they will form a trust with you.
8. Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. This is one of the most important tips to remember. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor their trust and your referrals will grow exponentially.