Love or hate it, networking is a necessary evil for business success. It’s a requirement in the AEC industry for both business developers and seller/doers. By definition, networking is the act of social interaction. It requires face-to-face encounters. If you’re an introvert, a homebody, or a millennial glued to your phone, this can be intimidating to down right terrifying. Yet, it doesn’t have to be.
Networking can be exhilarating and rewarding if you have a plan and set realistic goals. Or, networking can be traumatic and exhausting if you think you can wing it. You’ll be sorely disappointed if you wing it.
Here are eight tips for successful networking.
- Don’t Attend Everything
There are enough industry networking events, day and night, that you could spend all of your time attending them. Besides being exhausting, this is inefficient and doesn’t achieve any strategic objectives. You have a list of target clients, and you have clients. Go where they are! What events do they attend? What interests them? While a particular topic may not interest you, if your clients or targets clients are going to be there, you should be too.
- Have a Plan
Prior to attending any networking event, ask yourself why you’re attending and what you expect to achieve. Do you hope to meet a particular person? Do you want to learn more about a topic relevant to your clients? Set 2-3 realistic goals prior to attending the event. Then, ask the organizers for the attendee list. You may not get it, but nothing ventured nothing gained. Review the list before the event and target the people with whom you’d like to speak. Make a list and keep it in your head of the questions you want to ask these folks. You should have both icebreaker casual questions and serious questions about what you want/need to learn. Preparing the list ahead of time will help you to stay calm when you meet people.
- Read Name Tags
Upon arrival at the event, read the nametags on the registration table. Remember your list of who you wanted to meet? Is their nametag still on the table or not? You’ll now know who has arrived. Are there nametags for people that weren’t on the attendee list that you already reviewed? Now you have more people to meet.
- Head to the Bar
Really! Whether you drink or not, you’re more approachable with a drink (even soda) in your hand, and this is where you’re going to meet people. Read nametags while you’re standing in line. Talk with the people next to you. You’ve now met 2-3 people. See how easy this is?
- Have an Intermediary
Ask someone in your network to introduce you to your target client. This will help you to break the ice, and it gives you some credibility as the person in network is also in your target’s network.
- How to Get Away from the Bore
We all know this happens. You’ve made polite chit chat with someone and realize that not only are they not a target, but they’re a bore. You’re stuck. You can’t get away. Now what? There are a few options for this situation. First and foremost, be polite. Treat them the way you’d want to
be treated. Then introduce them to someone else and excuse yourself. As simple as saying, “excuse me” and walk away. Another option is to say, “It was nice talking with you. I need to find so and so before I have to leave. Excuse me.” They are probably a very nice person, someone you may even like in another situation. Give them the benefit of the doubt and move on.
- Work the Room with a Colleague
If you’ve attended the event with a colleague or even a friend, you can help each other and work the room together, introduce people to each other, and even direct clients to each other. Just remember, you are there at the event to work and so is your colleague/friend. Do not use them as a crutch, and don’t let them use you as a crutch. Split up and go meet people. Work your plan. Remember why you’re at the event. Having a partner can help with networking only if you are both working.
Smile and try to enjoy yourself. If you look like you’re having fun, people will want to know you. Enjoy the event. Learn something. You may meet someone exciting. And, if you’re lucky you’ll achieve at least a few of the goals you’ve set for yourself.
Networking does get easier over time. Like everything in life, if you have a plan and break it down into steps, it’s less intimidating. You may even surprise yourself and discover you’re a born networker at heart!Networking Tips for Success,Networking Tips for Success,