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folksJust this morning I learned (again) that most people are not comfortable introducing themselves and their business. It is so important to have this mastered. It is so basic! How can a business owner expect the other small business owners in the networking group to ‘sell’ him when he can’t tell the group what he does? This doesn’t make sense, does it? I’ve helped hundreds of small business owners hone their introduction or “elevator speech”.

A networking event is an opportunity to build connections that can lead to relationships. I am an observer of people and it always mystifies me when I see business people make the effort to attend a networking event and they spend the time talking with their employees or the people they interact with on a daily basis. The purpose of networking is to build new relationships. Introduce yourself to people you don’t know!

1. When you arrive at a networking event:
Thank the host or sponsor for the networking opportunity.
Immediately find someone you don’t know and introduce yourself.
Be in the right frame of mind.

2. Listen! You are not there to sell. Listening is the first rule of relationship building.

3. Be sure to have clean business cards. It is surprising how many people arrive at networking events with no or outdated business cards. This is a big “no-no”.

4. As soon as the event is over, make sure to write notes on the backs of the business cards you have collected. Note where you met this person and anything you want to remember about them. Trust me, within 2 hours of the event, you’ll forget 75% of what you wanted to remember.

5. Use a person’s name in the course of conversation to imprint it in your memory. The ability to remember names is a skill that can be developed. It just takes practice.

6. STOP talking about yourself. You won’t learn much about other people if you are constantly talking. Ask questions and listen. You’ll be amazed at how much you will learn.

7. Make eye contact with people who are engaged in conversation with you. Learn how to make eye contact without staring or getting distracted. If you have a difficult time with this, practice in everyday conversations until you are comfortable with your ability to maintain eye contact.

8. Keep one hand free to be able to shake hands with people.  A drink in one hand and a food plate in the other doesn’t create a great networking posture and makes it awkward to shake hands.  If you need to eat, do so early on at the event and then allow yourself to participate fully in networking. Networking events aren’t the place for full course meals.

9. Find people who are standing off to the side by themselves and initiate a conversation with them. Help them get introduced around the group. Many people admit that they really don’t like to network because they don’t like introducing themselves to others and are shy about meeting people.

10. Do not ask people for their business cards unless you really intend to follow up with them. You are at the networking event to develop relationships. If you’ve determined that you would most probably never do business with a person, why ask for their card? The game isn’t won by those who accumulate the most cards! It is won by the people who know how to build solid and good relationships.

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