Avoid being one of them.
Networking is one of the quickest and most effective ways to generate leads, grow your brand name, and meet like minded people.
My business changed immensely when I began visiting networking events on a regular basis.
Even just one or two per month can make a huge difference.
That’s enough to consistently get clients and find new business opportunities.
But, so many people don’t know how to network.
You just show up and throw around some business cards, right?
You need to know how to properly connect with people and make a solid impression or you’ll be that guy that has a reputation for tossing out cards like boomerangs.
Here’s how to maximize your experience at networking events, based on real data.
Dress to impress
Did you know that you only have seven seconds to make a first impression?
Think about when you meet someone for the first time.
What kind of impression are you giving them?
Do you look like someone that they’d want to work with or be around?
Tom Ford once said that dress well is a form of good manners. It shows that you have self respect, high standards, and that reflects in the other areas of your life.
The individual networking event will determine how you should dress, however. Some might advertise as leaning on the casual side, for example.
You can never go wrong with a well fitted suit, dress shirt, and dress shoes. A vest and tie is also a nice addition if you want to look extra sharp.
Even if a networking event is considered “casual” you can still sport a suit jacket, but with jeans. Skip the tie, and keep the dress shoes.
Check out this video from Aaron Marina at Alpham on how to dress professionally.
Practice your body language
Humans take in the world 82% visually. That’s why your body language and appearance is so important.
These subtle movements and way we hold ourselves physically speaks more about us than we often realize.
Consider your body language for a second. How would you rate it out of ten?
Are you hunched over and closed off? Or, are you welcoming and confident?
I’ve had several people tell me they approached me at networking events because I had a “good vibe.” A.K.A my body language was positive and welcomed people.
How do you do this? By doing the following.
Keep your hands out of your pockets
Placing your hands in your pockets is a clear signal that your trying to hide and not be seen.
It subconsciously tells people that you’re shy(which isn’t a bad thing) and a bit closed off.
Instead, keep your hands out of your pocket and in plain sight.
Did you know that the Roman empire made it mandatory for people to shake hands with their palms facing up the first time they met?
This was to prevent assassinations when people would hide weapons in their sleeves.
This psychology still plays a role today, so keep your hands in open sight.
Eye contact is key
It’s all in the eyes, Chico – Scarface
If you want to crush it at business networking, you need to practice proper eye contact.
Stare too long, and it comes off as creepy. Look for too short, and you lack confidence.
This goes for both before you’ve met someone and during conversation.
Imagine that you just grabbed a drink from a table. You lock eyes with another fellow networker a few feet away.
If you look down, they’ll interpret that as you don’t want to speak. However, if they also hold contact, it’s a green light to say hello.
Have you ever spoken to someone and they literally wouldn’t look away? Like, they were glued to your eyes. It was kind of uncomfortable, wasn’t it?
That’s why you should break eye contact every five seconds or so for a moment, or while you’re thinking. This creates a nice balance.
Head behind your hips
If you want to appear more confident, posture is everything.
One easy and quick way to improve yours is by pushing your hips forward and bringing your head back.
Obviously don’t over do it or you’ll risk looking like this:
You’re improving your center of gravity and aligning your spine by using this technique.
Body language can literally change you feel as proven in this study.
Don’t arrive empty handed
Don’t be that guy that goes to networking events without business cards.
And don’t be that guy that goes to networking events just to hand out business cards.
Both don’t look good on you.
Instead, you need to keep business cards on you so you can be contacted for potential followups. However, only hand them out if asked.
Here’s how to make business cards on Vistaprint, which is what I use.
Step 1: Select the business card option from the homepage
Visit Vistaprint.com and choose “Business cards” from the top navigation.
They have five different sub-categories you can choose from, including:
- Premium shapes
- Premium papers
- Speciality cards
- Brilliant finishes
- Standard business cards
You don’t need to be too fancy if this is your first time getting business cards. However, spending a bit more to get professional looking ones can improve your brand image.
Pick what best suits your budget and goals.
Step 2: Choose the paper thickness, stock, and corners
Next, you’ll need to choose some further options before you dive into designing your masterpiece of a business card.
The paper thickness is important because thin cards feel cheap and might give people the impression that you don’t care enough to invest into your advertising.
I personally prefer a matte paper because it’s easier on the eyes, and standard corners.
Order as many as you think is necessary, as well. If you plan to hit business networking events often, more makes sense to prevent you from continually ordering when you eventually run out.
Once you’ve picked what you’d like, hit the “Start designing” button.
Step 3: Design that baby!
Now the fun part. Choose a template from the next page, along with a color and finish.
Fill out the text fields and you’ll get an idea of what your card will look like with the preview.
You can add extra text, images, QR codes, and other elements from the top bar.
Hit the next button once you’re finished designing the front, and you can do the same for the back.
You have the option to leave it blank, which will save you some cash.
Step 4: Review your design
I remember when I handed my business card to one of my friends, he said “Hey Carm, you spelled your name wrong.”
My heart dropped.
How could I be so stupid?
Well, he was actually just trolling me, but it made me realize the importance of double checking your business cards.
The last thing you want is to hand them out with typos and errors. That’s why you should ensure your card is perfect on the Vistaprint review page.
You can check out as a guest or register an account to finish your order on the last page.
You arrive home exhausted and kick off your shoes.
You reach into your wallet and see that you have about 15 new business cards from people you spoke with.
Great! Now, what?
This is where you take the time to follow up with these individuals. You don’t have to take hours with each person, either.
44% of salespeople give up after a single followup, which often leads to missing out on amazing opportunities.
I recommend adding the people you connected with on Linkedin. It is a professional network, after all.
It also allows you to stay on their radar, especially if you share content and actively post on there.
Here’s a template you can use yourself:
Altneratively, you can ask them if they’d like to hop on a quick phone call or meet up for coffee.
The overall goal is to stay connected and take that extra step that many don’t, which will give others a superb impression of you.
Yeah, it can be a bit awkward
Networking events are stereotyped as being boring and awkward.
I can’t lie. They can be.
This is especially true when you go to events that have plenty of people that are already acquainted.
You become the odd one out.
But, that’s okay. It just means there’s more people to meet.
I recommend setting a goal like meeting five people per event. If you set the bar too high, you may become demotivated.
If you went to two events per month, and met five people at each one, that’d be 120 new contacts every year. Talk about compounding!
Take it slow. It’s like any other skill. You get better at it the more you practice, and this brings me to my next point.
Be a social leader
When you attend business networking events, you won’t be the only one there that’s there for the first time.
This creates the fantastic opportunity to make an unforgettable first impression on others by being a social leader.
What do I mean by this?
I mean that you can position yourself as a leader by meeting several people at an event, and then introducing them to one another.
You’re effectively helping others network, and instantly appear as the top dog in the situation.
This is an easy lifehack I love using in any social situation possible.
Networking is crucial as an entrepreneur.
You can find new clients and business opportunities in a flash if you do it right.
To begin, get your appearance in order. Dress sharp, groom yourself, and look like someone that others would want to work with.
Then, focus on your body language. Hold your head high, smile, and don’t sit around with closed arms. You want to appear confident and welcoming.
A great lifehack I enjoy using in social situations is meeting several people, and introducing them to one another to gain higher status.
Once you get some conversations going, don’t push business cards onto other people. Only give them out if they ask, and I recommend using Vistaprint to get them for cheap.
After the networking event is over, follow up with anyone that you connected with. Adding them on social media is easy and shows that you’re going out of your way to grow a relationship.