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Effective Business Networking Tips

Lisa ZakenPast Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce Membership Director Lisa Zaken has attended plenty of networking events, including the Network Gwinnett sessions held each Thursday and Friday morning. Here, she offers some tips to become more effective at events like Network Gwinnett.

While these tips are targeted at Network Gwinnett attendees, they should be useful in any leads group or other networking situation.

Define your purpose for attending meetings

Before going to a meeting, decide the goal you have for attending. Is it to gain new leads, develop relationships with other people at the meeting, or present a new product or service? Having a purpose in mind will help you be effective in your efforts.

Lisa also recommends that your business card reflect your purpose in attending. For example, if you are trying to get possible referrals for your carpet cleaning business, does your business card reflect the fact that you clean carpets? The people you meet, or hear your 30 second speech may remember what you do, but may not remember your name or company name. By putting that information on your card, they will easily be able to find you later.

Be on time for meetings, and don't leave early

When you go to a meeting, respect the other attendees and the host. If you arrive late, you disrupt the flow of the meeting. If you leave early, people who have heard your presentation will not be able to find you to ask questions or offer assistance.

Wear your name tag on the right

By placing your name tag on the right, people you shake hands with will easily be able to see it, making it more likely that they will remember you later on.

Have an effective handshake

Your handshake is the first impression that many people will have of you when you meet them. Your handshake should be firm, but not bone-crushing. Nor should your hand flop around like a limp fish. Practice your handshake with a partner until you have it down right.

Speak Clearly and Concisely

When you have your opportunity to speak at a meeting, make sure that everyone can understand what you are saying, and that you get your message across. If you are given a microphone, make sure to use it so people on the far side of the room can hear your message. Respect the other people in the room by limiting your speech to the time alloted.

Make eye contact

As you give your introduction to the group, look around the room, and try to catch the eye of those listening to you. Don't just stare at an empty wall, or at one person. Make each person in the room feel like you are addressing them personally.

Networking does not mean global emailing

By the end of the event, you will probably have obtained several business cards. At Network Gwinnett, each attendee is given a photocopy of all the business cards from people attending. Don't go back to your office and send an email to everybody reminding them that you attended the meeting, and what you have to offer. That is spam, and a sure way NOT to get business.

Work the room with small talk first, don't stay in one place too long, and plan your conversation generators.

Plan how you are going to meet and engage people at the event. Rather than jumping into conversations with a sales pitch, think of a few pieces of small talk that you can use to get started. (Topics like the weather and sports results are OK, while politics and religion are probably not). Also, have some conversation starters that reflect your purpose for attending the meeting. Finally, don't take up all your time talking to one person. Start a conversation, and if there is mutual interest, plan on coffee or lunch to get into depth. Your goal should be to meet several people.

Build relationships of support and respect

Think of networking as a long-term process, where you develop a list of contacts that you can refer business to, and who can refer business to you. The best way to accomplish this is to create lasting relationships.

Be a resource to others and genuinely care about people

People you meet will be much more likely to provide you with referrals if they know that you care about them and their business. After all, they will be referring their clients and friends, and don't want to be embarrased by a bad experience.

Be helpful, and go the extra mile

While you're building your reputation and expanding your referral base, nothing will get you further faster than offering a helping hand that over-delivers on expectations.

Lisa Zaken is the Education Director at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.