Networking is not everyone’s cup of tea. But with thoughtful planning and preparation, you can make it a success each and every time. So, besides your charming smile, elevator speech, and networking goals, what are you bringing with you to your next networking event? Don’t forget:
- Business Cards. Before you leave the office, make sure to grab 20-30 business cards. Should you hand it out to everyone? No, absolutely not. One of the goals of networking is to meet, assess, and qualify leads. In your networking conversations, aim to determine which leads have the potential to help you move you toward your larger business goals. TIP: Be proactive! ASK for business cards of people you decide you’d like to connect with. That puts you in the driver’s seat.
- Pen & Paper. (Or phone or tablet for you tech savvy folks). After you connect with someone, jot down a little note to help you remember them and your conversation. Since you’re going to follow up with everyone you’ve met, this will help you to keep everyone straight over the next 72 hours. You could even write on their business card! TIP: DO NOT take notes during your conversation. Be fully engaged. Even if you know you are taking notes, your contact may think you’re bored with them and assume you are checking your Twitter feed.
- Promotional Materials. Make sure to grab a stack of your company flyers or brochures. Even more so than your business cards, be stingy with these! Not everyone is a viable lead and of those, even less will actually turn into customers. It cost you money to print these products, so be smart with them. Based on your conversations, or if someone specifically asks for them, judiciously give out these higher level materials. TIP: Ask for the business card of the person you give these promotional materials. Make a note about what you gave them and what their needs are and be sure to follow up with them immediately.
In the meantime, check out these handy networking blogs: