Building a business is also about building relationships and networking is a key building block to establishing solid relationships. There is a purpose and science to it when done right. Connecting and “clicking” adds value to all parties involved. People do business with people they know and share leads to contracts.
Darrah Brustein, Founder of Network Under 40 and Finance Whiz Kids is a master-networker, and serial entrepreneur with businesses in merchant services, networking, and financial education for kids. “The great news is that people go to these networking events to meet strangers, so you’re in the same position as everyone else there,” says Brustein.
Here are seven do’s and don’ts for navigating a networking event:
- Don’t “work the room.” Don’t try to meet as many people as possible in a room; focus on making just a few solid connections, advises Brustein. “People can sense when you’re simply speaking with them to grab their card and go. These short interactions will not be memorable and therefore work against you. Aim to meet a few people and begin a meaningful dialogue.”
- Don’t be afraid to join in. There is nothing wrong with joining a conversation and waiting for a natural break in the chatter to introduce yourself, says Brustein. “In most cases, the people who are already speaking will enjoy the interruption because it gives them a chance to meet someone new. If you sense that you’ve entered into a serious discussion, it’s okay to politely excuse yourself.”
- Do share information. Sharing is caring says Brunstein. “If you are willing to share your contacts and resources, others will be more likely to help you as well. Develop a sincerity in your giving nature without expectation of something in return.”
- Do ask great questions. Brustein believes that the only way to get to know someone else is to ask them genuine and thoughtful questions. “It’s always best to walk away from a conversation having allowed the other person to speak more than you did. Not only will they feel great about the conversation, but you’ll have gotten to know a lot about him/her, helping you plan and execute your follow-up more thoughtfully.”
- Don’t spread yourself too thin. Start by spreading a large net to test out a handful of organizations and then commit yourself to a only a few as time goes on. “You want to become a staple at these events,” says Brustein. “When you bounce around to too many events where no one knows you, you’re doing yourself a disservice by having to build your brand from scratch in each environment.”
- Don’t go without a plan. Set reasonable expectations. “When attending an event, understand what you are there to do. Is your goal to feel out a new organization and get to know the vibe? Is it to meet five new people? Is it to meet one or two specific people? These are all reasonable expectations and it takes a little pre-planning to set these goals,” advises Brustein.
- Do be authentic. Networking events are meant as jumping-off points for relationship building. “If you can’t be yourself, you’ll be starting off these new relationships with a lie. Don’t try to be the person you think others want to meet,” cautions Brustein. “Be genuine. The people you connect with when you are authentic are the ones you’ll want to stay in touch with.”
A version of this story appeared on the StartupCollective, a virtual mentorship program designed to help millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. It was launched by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs.