With AIRMIC coming up and BIBA just gone, ‘networking’ seems to be the buzzword at trade events. But what does it mean, and how can you effectively achieve it? Networking is more than just socialising. Interaction is key, but there is a clear ultimate goal in the exercise of networking – to enhance your business.
Entrepreneur.com redefined Networking as "The process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, expand your sphere of influence or serve the community."
This definition works well, but we would redefine it further to include “developing and activating new and existing relationships…” to clarify that networking is not merely engaging in chats with people you already know, nor is it simply about making new friends.
The aim is to increase business, enhance knowledge or expand your influential sphere. These are achievable through targeting new, relevant contacts with whom to develop new relationships, or by reviving the spark in existing connections to refresh or diversify your offering to them.
Whoever you’re networking with, the most important things to remember are:
- Be organised
- Manage your stand effectively
- Be open with your body language
- Have your business brain switched on
Be organised – recording your contacts is key
You can never rely on memory. Find a method that suits you for recording your contacts.
You may get 20 leads in one day at an event, which would otherwise take months to generate. So, whether it’s a physical contact book into which you clip business cards and make notes after each meeting, or a digital record on your phone/tablet, this manual will be your gold.
Manage your stand effectively – your stand represents your brand
Your presence at an event will revolve around your stand. Therefore, the people representing the stand must also represent and reflect the brand. Ensure that they are knowledgeable, smart, and confident at relationship-building.
Our other top tip is not to swamp the stand – it shouldn’t be so overpopulated that it appears intimidating, but at the same time should not look sterile.
For more on stand management, read our How to: Manage your stand at events blog.
Be open with your body language – what vibes are you sending to other networkers?
Your body language is key. To attract and engage visitors to your stand for as long as possible, you should be welcome, friendly and inviting. Small efforts such as making eye contact or initiating a handshake with each person to approach your stand will make a big difference.
Similarly, ensure that your stand itself appears inviting. For example, pick up any empty cups and ensure your space is tidy and organised.
Switch your business brain on
And lastly, people are there to do business. Be prepared for that.
photo credit: MarcelaPalma