7 Face-to-Face Networking Tips
By Elizabeth Robichaud
Networking. It’s a loaded word. For some, it stirs up anxiety and fear. For others, it is a chance to meet new friends and colleagues. Networking is key to establishing connections for contracts, suppliers, vendors and clients - and a necessary part of doing business, especially in the realm of social media, software product entreprenurs and start-ups.
1. Name Tags
Name tags are a great equalizer since everyone looks a little goofy, regardless of title or position. Some events will tie an ice breaker into the name tags such as listing hobbies or Twitter handles. Wear your name tag on your left lapel so that your name is visible when shaking hands.
2. Business Cards
Business cards don’t have to be white and corporate anymore. Double-sided, images, QR codes, unusual shapes and cut-outs are trending now. With websites like Moo or Vistaprint, creating and obtaining inexpensive high-quality contact cards is a breeze. Home or office printers are powerful enough to handle small batches if you want to change images or colours on a regular basis. Card Observer is a great launch pad for ideas on how to make your business cards stand out.
Card cases keep your cards from getting "dog-eared" and ensures that you have pristine business cards at all times.
PRO TIP: Keep your cards in your right pocket and those you receive in your left pocket. Why? This way you won’t have to cross over your body when shaking hands and exchanging cards.
3. Time Management
Don’t monopolize someone’s time. If you’re having a great conversation, be sure to follow up. You’re at an event to mingle though, so be prepared to have some exit lines handy. Just be sure to say goodbye and shake hands before exiting a conversation. Seek out mutual acquaintances to introduce you to someone you particularly want to meet.
Be sure to have a pen on-hand to jot down notes after you meet someone on the back of their card or on one of yours. This will help when following-up, especially if they give you a reference to another person or vendor. Keep your notes short and easy-to-read.
Going to events and exchanging contact information is only one side to networking. The other 50 per cent comes from staying in touch with your new found connections. Email works well if it is not time sensitive, but for something more urgent, a phone call usually works best.
6. Portfolios and Resumés
Portfolios and resumés are best kept for career fairs and interviews. Just as your resumé is your key into an interview, your business card the key to meeting someone and staying connected "offline". One of the best ways to connect online using a business card is to have a QR code or link to an online work portfolio. Twitter handles are always a plus too.
7. The “Elevator” Speech
Also called the 30-second introduction, your elevator speech is a rehearsed few lines about who you are and what you do. Think of this as your verbal business card, so confidence and appearance matter.
Remember: Networking is about quality conversations, not quantity.
~Elizabeth Robichaud is a bilingual up-and-coming professional communicator. A member of IABC Toronto, Elizabeth is graduating this spring from the post-graduate certificate in public relations at Centennial College.