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4 Tips for Effective Networking Connections

If you’ve attended a networking event, you’ve likely connected with other business owners and entrepreneurs who later said, “Let’s meet over coffee.” It’s a great idea, but how do you know if this connection with lead to a meaningful business relationship?

Whether in person or at an online virtual meeting, you can make that follow up to the networking event a successful one by having clear objectives for connecting. Are you looking for opportunities and clients or just building relationships?

Here are five tips to help you make meaningful connections and create effective business opportunities.

1 Prepare a pitch so you connect with the right people

At every in-person networking event, prepare a brief, 15 to 30 second description of yourself, including your name, company name, what you do, and your ideal client. When informally networking at an event, this is the information you want to share. When asked to give an introduction to a group of people, the description is the same, but when you finish, restate your name and the name of your company. (People don’t always catch your name the first time.)

Take some business cards with you to share. They may also ask if you have a business card for a door prize draw. If you’re tech savvy, you can share your QR code to your LinkedIn profile or website instead of a business card. The benefit is you can easily update your LinkedIn profile or website, compared to ordering a new set of business cards whenever you update your information.

For virtual networking events, have your contact information typed out and checked for spelling and punctuation. You can copy and paste your information into the chat after your introduction to the group.

2 Attend networking events that attract the target market

Another tip for a successful networking event is to learn what you can about the event before attending. What industries or niches do the attendees represent? Do they have a newly-minted business or have they been in business for a while?

These questions are important because if you command a high price tag, a new business may not have the means to hire you. Similarly, if you are just starting to build your skills and your client network, a five-year old business may prefer to hire someone with an established success record.

If you are in a marketing business specializing in marketing for tech companies with 50 or more employees, going to an event for small business owners may not be the best use of your time. To make the connections you’re looking for, do your research on the event prior to attending.

3 Understand that networking isn’t the same as building connections

After attending a networking meeting, you hope to have two or three people to follow up with. You might also be approached by someone who wants to meet with you and learn more about your business over coffee. Be clear about the purpose for the invitation.

First, if you’re a new business owner, freelancer, or entrepreneur, meeting someone for coffee and getting to know each other’s business sounds like a great idea. You’ll build up your contact list and even if you don’t do business together, you’ll know who to recommend for (insert their business product or service here).

Second, general getting-to-know-you chats build connections but rarely result in any business. You already introduced yourself and what you do at the networking event. If someone truly is interested in bringing you business, they will say something specific such as, “I’m interesting in signing up for your finance education program but I have some questions. Can we talk over coffee?”

4 Set clear expectations

Always be clear about your expectations prior to setting up a follow-up meeting after the networking event. If the other person says they want to “chat and get to know you and what you do,” expect that you’ll be working on building a connection. The connection might lead somewhere or it might not.

A more specific objective, such as working on details about whether you can coach them on starting their new business is more likely to bring you a new client.

Key Takeaways

Networking is an important part of growing your business. A follow-up meeting after attending a networking event will be more effective if you are clear about your goals for going to the event, whether you just want to make a connection or find possible clients.

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