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Monday, January 16, 2006

When You Go To Business Network Meetings What Should You Do?

Business networking or social networking is an important part of getting yourself known in business circles. Networking covers networking events and business networking through internet sites such as, and

When it comes to career management that's all about networking too as The Guardian's tongue in cheek article tells us.

When it comes to the normal business networking the sooner you get involved the sooner you become accepted as a "proper" businessman.

But what do you need to do and what should you expect from it?

Networking happens when a group of business people meet up to talk and to see whether they can help each other at all.

In the time I've been networking I've found the following three step process reasonably reliable:

On Your Marks: Prepare To Network

1) First get some good looking business cards that spell out your business.

  • Don't "just print" some business cards on your own inkjet/laser
  • Don't cross out phone number/emails/names/addresses on existing cards, to save money
  • Check that it's clear what your business does/offers
  • Make sure you use both sides of the card
  • Provide an offer on the card
  • Make sure you've phone/fax/mobile/email/web site
  • Don't use oversize cards - I can't read them with my card reader!

2) Think about your aim for being at a networking meeting:

  • Is it to simply get your face known?
  • Is it to make contact with someone from a specific firm?
  • Is it to help someone else at the meeting?
  • Is it to speak at a meeting?

3) Make sure you take a pen and enough business cards with you

Get Set, GO: Network

Go the event.

Go the event.

  • Get yourself a drink to hold in your hand if you tend to fidget.
  • Get there early if you're a bit nervous - that way you can talk to one or two people as they arrive and before everyone else turns up.
  • Don't be intimidated by a group of people in earnest discussion. Check whether they're open to other people joining them. You'll see their body language is partially open and if you stop near by they may well pause and give you the opportunity to enter the conversation.

Remember everyone is there for the same purpose. To pickup more business.

Yes we may go to chat but we all still have an eye on possible business.

Also remember who you speak. That's so that if someone else you speak to has a problem that someone you've spoken to can sort out you can give your new contact their details.

How do you do that? By taking and giving out business cards.

If you promise to help someone write exactly what you promised on their business card so that you can follow up.

At the end of the meeting you should have a pile of business cards.

The Finishing Line: Prepare to Follow-up

When you get back to base enter your new contacts details into a follow-up system. The most basic is probably an Excel spreadsheet.

I'd recommend using a card scanner if you intend going to lots of meetings. It helps in the sheer work of entering card details.

As you enter the cards make sure you also note down on your to-do list every promise or action you made and any made by the contacts you made.

Should you follow-up with every single person you met during the meeting?


The reason is that the people you spoke to may have no interest, or use, for your product or service.

BUT the people that they know who are outside the networking meetings you've attended may. If so and if they're consistent networkers they're likely to remember your details and let people know about you.

Also networking is all about allowing people to see what sort of business person you are. How do you handle yourself, are you consistent in your message, do you deliver on your promises.

There are times in networking when you CAN sell your product or services and you'll recognise that time. But don't do what many rookie business networkers do: desperately push business cards and/or leaflets into the hands of everyone at the event as though simply pushing information onto people will help their business.

Believe me any act of apparent desperation is going to ruin your chances of being seen as a helpful networker and you're going to face an uphill battle getting recommended by anyone.

conversely go out enjoy and get known. Help and communicate and get relationships going and in due course you'll get the work your company is expert in.

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