How to NOT Fail at Networking Events!
This guest blog was written by our friend Shankar Poncelet (<–Connect with him on Linkedin). Shankar is a web developer who is fairly new to the San Antonio business community and has gotten involved with some great organizations (Get2Biz, Tri County Chamber of Commerce). Read his thoughts on what he’s learned when it comes to networking.
Professional Networking Events are Stressful, but they don’t have to be…
Most things in life take shape due to the relationships we foster. It starts with our parents, and continues with the friends we choose during the different stages of our lives. Studies suggest that we have similar income, status and levels of happiness than the people we are surrounded by – either by choice or due to situational factors.
It is no different in business. Our circle of friends in business is defined by the people we choose to collaborate with, and do business with. To expand our network, we are told to attend networking events. Unfortunately, attending a networking event is pretty scary. Most people do not like to meet random strangers. I have become pretty good at networking and I can honestly say that I now truly enjoy networking.
Be Nice to Strangers
No matter which networking event you attend, chances are high that there is someone who is even more nervous than you are. Look for intimidated individuals who stare at the floor, join them and ask them how they do. That’s really all it takes. They will be super grateful that someone took the initiative to break the ice and make them feel welcomed. Introduce them to other people you may know and ask them about their business. That’s all it takes to be nice. You are their hero now, and they will not forget your kind gesture for as long as they are part of the group. Who do you prefer to work with? If you have two people with the same skills in front of you, will you prefer working with the one that was nice to you when you were new, scared and alone?
Listen More, Advertise Less
I have found that listening to other gets me a lot further than flooding them with information about myself that they may not even be interested in. Therefore, I ask plenty of questions about them and their business. I want to genuinely understand what they do, and what kind of struggles they face in their business. This tells me whether there is even a need for my services, or not. Trust me, it won’t take very long until they ask you what you do. That’s your moment to speak, except that you can now speak in a much more informed way since you know some things about them that lets you adjust your words to your listener.
Don’t Try To Sell
Who likes to be bothered by a pushy sales person? Most people don’t. Therefore, do not try to sell. Instead, try to inform and make yourself available as a resource in your field of expertise. Try to make a friend, not a customer. If people think that you can help them, they will reach out to you when the time is right. If you categorize each new contact into someone who is either a customer or not, then you force the situation into a binary outcome. It’s either a yes or a no. That’s good for computers, but not for human relationships.
What To Do With The Business Card
Connect with interesting people on LinkedIn, follow their business on Facebook and other social media networks. Send them an email and tell them how much you appreciated that you had the pleasure of meeting them. Politely ask them if they want to join your mailing list, if you have one 😉
What Can I Learn From You?
All of you are successful business people, and I am sure there is a lot I can learn from you. I would be super grateful if you could share your number one networking advice with me.
About Shankar Poncelet
Shankar Poncelet is a web developer who loves San Antonio, Texas, women in technology, animal welfare and clean code. Read more about Shankar at http://shankxwebdev.com/