A Quick Guide to Networking
Everyone knows that the small business owner and the entrepreneur don’t exist in a vacuum. A big part of the business, any business, is networking. You can’t do things alone. And, you never know who might have the thing you’re looking for. So, how do you get started?
Here are some things you should know:
1. Have a business card
In the digital age, it seems outdated and unnecessary sometimes, but the business card can be your biggest asset. It’s not meant to speak for itself. A business card is a reminder. Leave some space on your card so you can write a quick note or a followup to what you were talking about. Make sure it has the relevant information (name, phone number, email address, website). Your business card isn’t a badge of honor, it’s a tool used to convey information. Don’t treat it like it defines you.
2. Don’t be impatient
As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you’re used to adhering to a schedule that you determine. When you network, you throw in a variable: other people. Not everyone can be as on top of things as you are. Or, maybe, they have their own schedule they’re trying to maintain. You have things to do. Don’t sit by the phone waiting for someone to call.
3. Don’t force it
Like I said above, you never know who is going to be a valuable connection. It might not be the most connected person in the room; it might not be the smartest person in the room. Networking is natural. Humans long to be social. If you strike up a conversation and hit it off with someone, they are going to remember you more than the person you have to force every word with.
4. Set a goal; be ready to change it
How many people do you want to talk to? How many business cards do you want to hand out? Those can be goals you set. You can also set a goal like talking with three people for at least five minutes. Five minutes is a long time. If you have no trouble maintaining a conversation for that long, you’ve made a connection that is more likely to remember you the next day. He’ll think, “Who was that guy I talked to forever? Oh, right, I got his business card!”
Like most things (except for, maybe, fire safety), it’s best to learn by doing. If you’re looking for places to network, sites like Mashable often do roundups of events coming up. If you’re not up to going to a conference, you can always try Meetup.com. Meetup let’s you search for organizations and groups based on topic. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a great connection in that Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan group you join.