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Networking 101

Posted by ehayden on June 9, 2015

There’s no doubt about it, networking works. But for many, the idea of walking into a room of strangers and striking up meaningful conversations can be intimidating. The Indy Chamber’s resident networking extraordinaire, Director of Member Relations Toni Neely, shares her top five tips for nailing that next networking event.

1.     Present Yourself Well

Business networking is often about first impressions, and first impressions are often about presentation. At face-to-face events, dress well, polish how you speak, make eye contact and generally present yourself to impress others with your professionalism and charisma.

 2.     Prepare Your 30-60 Second Elevator Pitch

You must be able to clearly communicate your value proposition in 60 seconds or less. Your elevator pitch should answer:

  • What problem(s) do you solve?
  • How can your products or services positively impact the bottom line? 
  • What’s your product/service’s ROI?
  • What distinguishes you from your competition?
  • After conversation begins, be prepared with one or two brief examples to help your audience understand at deeper level.

 3.     Tuck the Elevator Pitch Away

Now that you have one, tuck it away in your back pocket.  It’s important to be prepared and to be able to succinctly describe your products and services.  However, it’s much more impactful to have an engaging conversation with a new contact. Good networking is about connection, enough so that people want to talk to us again. When you focus on that, it’s much easier to start any conversation, and keep it going well past the event’s end.

 4.     Commit to Giving First and Receiving Second

Now that you are prepared to professionally represent yourself and your company, focus on how you can help others FIRST. 

  • Before you leave your meeting, offer assistance you might be able to provide
  • Follow up ASAP. Reach out within 24-48 hours to arrange a time to meet for a coffee or to have lunch.
  • Listen to the details of what your new colleague/friend requires.
  • After listening and offering to help first, that is your chance to offer your goods and services

 5.     Ask and Listen

Sometimes the best small talk is not talking at all. Learn to ask great questions that get others to talk. Remember that people love to talk about themselves, especially when they have an attentive listener. Of course, the types of questions do matter. Open ended ones are best (start with how or what) rather than closed ended ones (start with why or do).  For example, It’s better to say “What’s keeping you busy these days?” rather than the more conventional and expected, “What do you do?”  The former will invite someone talk about their professional or personal lives, while the latter will immediately box them into talking about professional topics only.

 

Ready to put those skills to work? Register today for our next Indy Chamber event!