People who spend at least six hours a week networking get the best results, according to a survey conducted by BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization. It’s not only the number of hours you spend doing it that count, however —you need to be doing the right things, starting with making a good impression. People need a reason to remember your name and what you do. These tips will help you leave a good impression at any networking event.
Ask questions. Come up with some that have a unique twist and get people talking about themselves. Even if you say little, you’ll be remembered as a good listener and an interesting conversationalist. Some questions you can ask are:
- What would you be doing if you hadn’t followed the path of your current profession?
- Looking back, what decisions would you have made differently in your work?
- Of all the professions you find interesting, what makes this one the most compelling to you?
Build on these. While everyone else will be saying “Hi, my name is Bob. What do you do?”, you’ll be forging an image of yourself as someone who thinks outside the norm.
Handle Business Cards With Care
Forbes.com recommends you treat your business card like a credit card: something valuable to give and receive. It shouldn’t be given out indiscriminately—networking is about forming genuine connections. It’s not a place to pass out cards like fliers. That said, find a business card that matches the image you want to have. Feeling bold? Try an embossed card. Artistic? A die-cut card. A little of both? Get a folded card in a unique shape. Whatever design you get, keep the back blank for notes, and use a quality business card printing service.
When you receive a business card, take the time to read it in front of the person. Make a note on back of the card to remind you of the conversation. Jot down a note to follow up with the person. Make people feel like you respect their time and appreciate receiving their card.
Learn how to talk to strangers. You never know when someone will end up being just the right resource. This may take some practice if you are the shy type. Don’t see yourself as small. Everyone who attends a networking event has a goal, and if view yourself as insignificant compared to others, you’ll come across as being there just to get something. You are equal with others. Finally, in cases where you have a genuine desire to help, offer to do so. If you leave these conversations with, “Contact me if there is anyway I can help you,” you’ll leave a great impression.
Anthony is a recent business marketing grad from the east coast. He writes for several finance blogs.