by Karen Wessels, co-founder of SnappSales and VA Connect
I have a love-hate relationship with networking. Sometimes it makes absolute sense to me and at other times I feel no benefit at all from networking. Reflecting on why I experienced these two extremes on an activity that really should be fun and beneficial, I was able to determine where I, and most people, go wrong with networking and how we can make it one of our top skills going forward.
Create a King’s List
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received when it comes to networking is to identify your King’s list upon arriving at a networking event. What is a King’s List exactly? Quite simply you identify 5 people that you absolutely need to approach and engage with at this particular networking event.
You can identify them based on pre-set criteria. It could be things like the person you notice to move around the room the most, how they are dressed, whether they are working in your industry (this can be gleaned from the register that you sign or their name card), how they carry themselves. It could be that you’ve done research prior to the event and you have already identified from your research who you want to approach.
The bottom line is this: go into a networking event prepared and know who you want to speak to.
What should you talk about?
Again preparation is key. You can approach this one of two ways. Either you prepare your 30-second elevator pitch where you tell people within 30-seconds who you are, what you do and what value you bring to the table. If you are a bit shy and don’t feel so confident at networking events, then this one is for you.
Or you determine prior to the event what you want to say to each person on your King’s List. Let’s say you want to shake hands with the CEO of a leading training company. You have just started your own training startup and you would love to hear how this particular CEO survived the early days.
The bottom line is this: know what you want to say to whom, say it with honesty and passion, and your intention should be integral to your vision and whichever outcomes you wish to achieve from this networking event.
Should you take business cards?
Tradition screams ‘yes!’ take two pockets full of business cards! And my more modern digital side says, don’t worry about the business cards, connect on LinkedIn right then and there. Whichever school you support, ensure that somehow you are able to exchange contact details. Don’t walk away from an encounter with someone that you really wanted to connect with and not have an easy way to get hold of them in future.
If you are taking business cards, ensure that you keep them together and the moment you arrive home, send out an email or at the very least capture their details in your Calendar Contacts or on a spreadsheet.
This is why I love LinkedIn, there’s no chance of accidentally losing business cards of crucial contacts.
Follow up Follow up Follow up
The success of your networking lies in the follow-up. You showed up wearing smart clothes, representing your brand, you identified your King’s List and engaged with each one on a personal level. You exchanged contact details with the promise of being in touch at a future point.
Don’t lose the momentum you have built by not returning to your King’s List. Set a date with yourself a week or so after the networking event to touch base with those you connected with. Find out how you can add value to their lives, where you can be of assistance. I believe in the power of reciprocity. First add value and then ask for assistance or help with whatever it is that you require.
Bringing it together
At the end of the day, it’s all about how you approach networking events, and how you network that will determine your success or not at these events. Go in with the right intention, have purpose, love what you do and be prepared!
Karen Wessels is the co-founder and COO of VA Connect, a South African virtual assistant platform that provides outsourced administrative support; and is also the co-founder of SnappSales, a company that generates quality sales leads for its clients. Prior to establishing both her companies, Karen spent over 10 years in different sales, marketing & admin support roles. This experience has equipped her with the invaluable skills required to run her two successful business ventures. Follow Karen on her Personal Website | Twitter | Facebook | Google+
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