Effective business networking is like a puzzle, the bringing together of like minded individuals who, through relationship building, become walking, talking advertisements for one another.
Keep in mind that networking is about being bona fide, building trust, and seeing how your relationship can genuinely help others.
1. Always figure out before you even walk into a room, what your specific goals are in attending each networking meeting. This helps you to pick groups or associations that will help you get what you are looking for.
2. Ask open-ended questions during your networking conversations, questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how. Try to avoid questions that require a simple yes or no response. By using this line of questioning you can open us the discussion and show listeners that you are interested.
3. Never just throw your business card at someone the minute you meet them, you must get to know the person and their business as well as explaining your business before you even contemplate a business card exchange. Some people will find you rude, pushy and unprofessional which will in turn reflect badly on your business.
4. Make sure you have your "elevator speech" prepared and know it like the back of your hand. An elevator speech is the commonly known as the response you would give in the amount of time it would take to reach the tenth floor in an elevator. Always rehearse your spiel and be genuine, so that you don't sound automated when you relay it to someone who asks what you do.
5. Always know what is going on in current affairs, if you don't feel comfortable just rolling into a spiel when you first meet someone, have a back up topic to break the ice until you do.
6. Become a walking resource centre. When you become known as a strong resource, others remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. This keeps you at their "top of mind".
7. Always phone or email your new contacts and let them know that you enjoyed meeting them. If possible mention things that you discussed on a more personal note (i.e. I hope you enjoyed that movie you were going to see that night.) people will come to know you as someone who listens, remembers them and they will form a trust with you.
8. The most important thing to remember is to follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor their trust and your referrals will grow exponentially.