Whether you’re a college graduate just entering the business world for the first time or an experienced marketer trying to grow their business’s list of potential clients, networking is a highly beneficial practice. This is especially true when you have a solid idea of how you plan to present and market yourself to those you’re connecting with.
Networking makes for a brilliant learning opportunity, too, so it’s not just a business necessity. You can discover a lot about what’s going on in your field and those related to it by attending networking events and mingling with the other participants.
Today I would like to share some tips and advice on networking and marketing yourself, whether it’s at a networking event or reaching out to people online!
1. Prepare beforehand.
There are several things you may want to do before attending a networking event, the first of which is to research said event. Knowing about the attendees and speakers, as well as what to expect from the program itself, can give you an understanding of any common ground you might find with the other people there. It can also help increase your confidence since you won’t be going in completely blind.
It’s also a good idea to set goals for yourself, as this can make things a lot easier and give you a greater sense of focus. For example, maybe you want to introduce yourself to a certain number of people before the event is over, or maybe you want to collect or distribute a certain number of business cards.
When going to one of these events, you’ll also want to have your contact information ready. Business cards are a common method for this, especially since they can be uniquely designed to show off your branding.
Reading up on industry trends wouldn’t be a bad idea, either, as those things can provide interesting and relevant conversation topics.
Preparation is also involved in networking over social media since you always want to make sure your profile is up-to-date, professional, and in line with how you’re marketing yourself. Include your strengths, skills, and any experience you have in your field, so people know what kind of value you bring to the table!
When it comes to networking and marketing yourself this way, though, be sure to present a positive and professional online image and remove any content from your accounts that might negatively impact it.
Social media also lets you check out the profiles of the people you’re reaching out to, which lets you understand more about who they are and what they do before striking up a conversation. This also opens the door to more conversation starters, like noting something positive about their profile and using that as a jumping-off point.
In short, preparation is a big step toward ensuring your networking efforts go smoothly.
2. Begin introducing yourself.
Believe it or not, this can be tricky for a lot of people and usually takes at least a little bit of planning beforehand if not lots of it. This is because first impressions are extremely important, and we want to make sure we’re giving people the right one. It can be nerve-wracking, to be sure, but entering the situation prepared and knowing what you want to say can help with all of it.
The first way to make a positive impression is by ensuring your appearance is clean, professional and consistent with the self-image you’re going for. This applies to both how you look at in-person events and your appearance in your photos and/or videos online.
Also, eye contact and proper handshakes give people signs that you are confident – even if you might be super nervous on the inside. Try to make your answers to questions sound confident, too!
Now, let’s discuss in-person introductions. In addition to planning out how you want to introduce yourself to people beforehand, it’s also good to consider your nonverbal signals. Body language and facial expressions tell people quite a lot, so make sure those things convey the same message as your words.
As for your words themselves, the statement you prepare should be brief but also interesting. You can include things like your name, what you do and maybe one other interesting detail about yourself but save more information for if the conversation continues. This approach gets people intrigued and could make for the beginning of an engaging back-and-forth dialogue.
Finally – practice! You can always bounce your introduction off of people you’re already familiar with – such as a friend group – before attending the event. That way, you can get feedback from them and make sure you’re confident and ready to go.
Once there, if you’re too nervous to approach a group in the beginning, you can always start by searching for another lone person to talk to. They might even be in the same boat as you, so it could help them become more comfortable as well!
As for introducing yourself over LinkedIn or Twitter, it can seem a bit easier since it’s usually through writing, but having a planned introduction can still help you be more confident in what you’re sending out to people.
In any case, the first introduction is often the most difficult. Beyond that, there’s always a chance whoever you’re speaking to could introduce you to more people at some point and get the ball rolling smoothly from there!
3. Market yourself effectively.
Throughout networking experiences – online or in-person – it’s essential to know yourself well, including your strengths, weaknesses, and skills. While you’re at it, ask yourself – how do you want other people to see you? What image of yourself are you trying to present?
Being able to market yourself right on the spot is important, too, so do your best to develop an ‘elevator pitch’ as it’s known. This way, you can discuss who you are, your goals, and your strengths and expertise in a way that is concise and gets the point across while also encouraging the other party to want to learn more about who you are and what you can bring to the table.
Even more important than highlighting your strengths is talking about the things you have achieved that highlight those strengths. This shows people you aren’t just saying something for the sake of impressing them, and that it is authentic.
LinkedIn is a huge asset when it comes to marketing yourself, too, as it shows off your brand, who you are as a professional, and any expertise and experience you have under your belt.
4. Networking is about relationship building.
It is always good to ask questions to show the other party you care about what they have to say and offer, too. This helps keep the conversation from fizzling out, speaks volumes about the kind of person you are, and could even make for an excellent learning experience.
For example, you could ask about what they do for work, what they think of the event and their motivation for attending, and more.
In short, both you and the other party should be finding value somewhere In your interactions, and the conversation should focus on both of you in equal measure. How do your skills and expertise benefit the other party, and how do theirs benefit you? How can the two of you help one another achieve goals?
Finally, be sure to remain polite when it’s time to end a conversation, ensuring things conclude on a positive note and pave the way for future relationship building.
5. Make lasting connections.
To do this, always follow up with the people you meet, perhaps by sending them a personalized email or LinkedIn message. This will allow you and the other party to keep in touch.
If this is successful, you can take things a step further by meeting up in person, such as getting coffee together, to continue connecting.
Also, there may be times in the future when you need to call on one of your contacts for something or vice versa, which is another good reason to maintain contact with everyone in your network as best you can and not abandon it.
While networking events and online connections are wonderful, let’s not forget we can also network with those in our current workplace, too! This can open the door to plenty of new opportunities, whether in your current role or a new one.
In any case, networking and marketing yourself will always be incredibly valuable tools to make use of. If you’re looking for assistance with these things or just want to learn more, click here to fill out an application and find out more about what it’s like to work with us!