Whether it’s through virtual meet-ups or in-person meetings, networking is the tool most often cited by business owners for developing meaningful connections and strategic partnerships with individuals in allied services and industries. Seasoned networkers know that, while conferences, seminars and trade shows are a great way to keep up with industry trends and gain practical business advice, what happens outside the meeting rooms is just as important as what happens inside. 

However, networking isn’t without its challenges. Not everyone is comfortable making small talk or initiating conversation in a room of unfamiliar faces. The good news is, a little preparation will go a long way towards maximizing your networking investment.  

Regardless of whether it’s a local Zoom webinar or an in-person national conference with hundreds of attendees, networking requires a sound plan and proper execution to achieve the best results – before, during and long after the event ends. While there are countless tips and tricks for networking effectively, here are five simple strategies we swear by at Caryl Communications:  

#1 – Set clear objectives.
The key to making the most of the time you spend networking is to have a specific purpose in mind. Some organizations, meetings and events are based more on exchanging knowledge and ideas than on strictly making business connections. Whether your goal is to meet a specific number of people, learn something new or discover potential opportunities, knowing what you are looking for makes it easier to zero in on groups and individuals that will help you achieve your goal.  

#2 – Find the right room.
Many business professionals make the mistake of looking for the right connection in the wrong room. The key is to invest time in places and people that offer access to quality information, ideas and opportunities. Be strategic about targeting organizations and events. Before attending a meeting or event, do your homework. Find out who will be there and identify companies or individuals you want to focus on. Look outside your industry for potential contacts. And consider expanding your circle to include professionals at varying experience levels, not just your peers. You never know who might have the right connections.

#3 – Articulate what you do and how you do it differently.
Crafting a great networking introduction is not just about stating the facts in 30 seconds. You need to explain what you do, who it benefits and what makes you different from everyone else who does the same thing. Keep in mind that before you begin “selling” your product or service, it’s important to find out what your listener is interested in buying. Everyone has problems, and they are more likely to work with you or refer you to others if you can tell them how your business takes a unique or unrivaled approach to solving those problems.

#4 – Turn connections into relationships.
When it comes to business relationships, it’s important to focus less on the word “business” and more on “relationships.” Networking is a two-way street, and one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to think only about what’s in it for you. The goal is to get to know people, not just get a lead or a referral. If you can add value by facilitating an introduction or sharing information about their area of expertise, chances are they will remember you when they have the opportunity to offer value in return. 

#5 – Follow up and follow through.
It goes without saying that in order for networking to work, you need to follow up with the contacts you’ve made. It’s helpful to make notes on the back of the business cards you collect about future actions you want to take. Send each contact a short email and connect via LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. If there is someone you want to get to know better, initiate the next meeting. The same holds true with referrals. Get in touch by email shortly after the meeting or event, and include the person who referred you in your initial correspondence. Regardless of the outcome, always remember to thank someone for helping you. What goes around comes around. 

As a top public relations and marketing firm in New Jersey, the Caryl Communications team understands that, now more than ever, building a network grounded in mutual respect and genuine value is critical to business success! Our firm has the ability and agility to support our clients as a full-service PR firm, or work on a project-by-project basis. Reach out to us at (201) 796-7788 or info@caryl.com to learn more.