Make the most of your networking

Our company recently joined our local Chamber of Commerce and my co Director and I went to one of its networking events yesterday evening. We’d only received the list of people registered to attend the event the day before so I’d frantically spent a few hours looking up web sites and noting anything of interest about them or their companies.

I didn’t turn up any specific companies I wanted to make a beeline for so I was happy just to play it by ear. I was also more relaxed than I had been the previous month when I’d attended a similar event as a guest. I suppose I “knew the ropes” a little and recognised a couple of people I’d met before so felt more at ease.

I had no desire to “work the room”, just to make gentle contact with people whose paths crossed mine. Shortly after arriving I spotted a solicitor whose site I’d noted as looking particularly modern and un-solicitor-ish and went over to tell him so. Thus my co Director and I were each off doing our own thing until we met up again roughly two hours later.

I don’t have a photographic memory so I did, every now and again, need to refer to my copy of the list with its comments. Each person I spoke to, without exception, was surprised that I knew anything about their company. Yet everybody at that event should have had access to the same information as we did, had they taken the trouble to research it.

I had an intriguing conversation with a Community Links Co-ordinator of a school near us. It’s a new role and she turned out to be a teacher for most of the time but had additionally been charged with setting up mutually beneficial deals between local business, the school and its pupils wherever possible. We already have the beginnings of an idea on how we could work together.

I also had an hilarious conversation with the author of a book on NLP for dummies whom I fully intend to keep in contact with and probably would never otherwise have met.

By the end of the evening my co Director and I had between us had conversations with representatives from about a dozen companies that were new to us plus I’d touched base with a further four or five I’d met at the previous event.

I have no idea whether we’ll get any business down the line, directly or indirectly, from these events but I’m gradually getting used to this social/ business networking lark (my co Director takes to them like a duck to water, bless ;)). I firmly believe that you do need to demonstrate a genuine interest in the person you’re talking with. If you can’t, then accept it (it’s probably mutual, anyway) and move on to the next person.

I have some contacts that I need to follow up – that’s another important part to networking: Don’t assume the other person will make contact – it may never happen!

Let’s have your networking tips and ideas…

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