How to Network in 2016
In honor of the closing of Chicago Tech Week, we are compiling everything we know about networking. Networking in today’s society is a lot like dating. You need to exhibit the right amount of enthusiasm, ask the right questions and identify if this company is right for you — all while standing in a crowded room. But how do you accomplish all these things? We’ve compiled a list of “to do’s” for your next networking event to make sure it’s a successful one.
Write Down Your Goals
Before attending, write down what do you want to accomplish from going to this event. You want to talk to X number of people and come out with X appointments for a “second date”. Write down what kind of relationship you are looking for and what qualities the other company needs to have to have an effective relationship. Write down how you want your company to grow/change and what kind of company can help you get there.
Identify The Appropriate Companies To Talk To
If possible, look up the event’s guest list and do some research before you go. Identify what each company does and how partnering with them will benefit you both. Remember: not everyone is the right fit for you – be selective. It’s better to take a bit more time to make a lasting impression than it is to have a brief conversation with a lot of people.
Identify the Appropriate People to Talk to
Companies that send someone to these events that are not a decision maker (like an intern or junior manager), is a huge red flag. They are sending the message that they are not really interested in making new connections, as these “representatives” don’t have the power to do so. It’s almost like if someone sent their mother to a speed-dating event on their behalf. Not a good sign for a healthy relationship.
Establish the Right Presence
Do you want to be at many events and walk around networking with other companies, or should you go to only a couple events and make a bigger impact with a booth? This may be dictated by your schedule and budget, but it is still a good idea to think about. Ideally, what is the best option for your company? If you can’t swing the ideal solution now, keep it in mind for next time.
Ask Questions and Treat it Like a Date
Don’t spend a lot of time trying to sell your company. Instead, ask questions about what they do to see if they’re a right fit for you. Have high standards, there are hundreds of companies to choose from and forcing a relationship that isn’t right won’t benefit anyone.
Establish a Second Date Before the First Date Ends
If the conversation is going well and you think this may be a beneficial relationship, make a plan for a second date or meeting right then and there. Don’t do the meaningless “We’ll give you a call” because every woman on the planet can tell you that there will be no phone call. Set up a time and date to meet.
If It’s Not the Right Fit Right Now, Keep Them Close
Refer someone in your Rolodex that will solve his or her current problems. This way, they will think of you when they do need your services and you get a chance to rekindle an old, dusty relationship.