You work hard to promote yourself as a viable worker, a profitable business, or an intriguing business partner. Or do you?
Typically, when you attend business networking events, you are there to promote yourself, a brand, or a business and connect with other industry professionals looking to do the same.
But more than just making a good impression, you want to be sure that when meeting potential clients or colleagues at a networking event, you are creating a genuine and real relationship.
How can you be sure that you are building lasting relationships at a networking event?
Even if you worked hard on your networking and are familiar with the many networking tips, tricks, and how-to’s, you may still be hitting a wall of business cards and unreturned emails and voicemails. It is important to focus on growing your networking skills and develop lasting and real connections.
For a guide on how to create real relationships at a networking event, look no further. We’ve got you covered.
Common Goals of Attending a Networking Event
People attend professional networking events for a variety of reasons. And knowing these reasons can help you to navigate each of your meetings while at the event.
While simultaneously vague and completely obvious, networking events are about building a personal relationship and growing a personal network. A personal connection might be for business or they might be for pleasure. Whatever the reason, people go to social networking and business networking events with the hopes of meeting a new person, or persons, with shared interests.
Sharing business ideas
Professional networking events are largely centered around a business or industry type. This might be something like real estate brokers, or they may be less specific such as Entrepreneurship or Start-Ups. Gravitate towards the event type that most interests you and be open to sharing your business ideas with the other attendees.
If you have a business venture, idea, or mock-up, and are ready to go all-in, you may still be looking for capital. Networking events are primarily where people can generate discussions on business capital or connect to people who can help you out. On the flip side, you might attend a networking group as an investor or business owner interested in investing in a passionate startup or an attractive venture.
Getting a foothold in a given industry or market might be difficult (depending on the industry). But in general, building a professional relationship with those who are regularly apart of an industry association or clique will help you to get to the places you’ll need to be to grow your social capital. They’ll also teach you about the ins-and-outs of that industry and things to keep an eye on.
Acquiring industry knowledge
Successful networking is all about being there. Even if you do not retain a lot of the information that you learned at a networking event, simply being there is all a part of the process. By being present at the event, you’ll become more familiar with names, companies, jargon, associations, and much more. On top of that, your name will be promoted to everyone else there or in the industry, helping to get it out there.
Grow a social media presence
Sometimes businesses simply attend networking events so they can grow their social media presence. This is fine, and honestly, is expected. It is likely that you will walk away from a networking event if a bunch of new social follows. When you meet someone, make sure that you follow up with them at another time. This way they know that your conversation is still top of mind.
Creating Intention When Networking
Networking is all about making a new connection—getting out and meeting people outside of your normal day-to-day. It is also about bringing together people from the same professional network or connected industries to discuss their passions, business endeavors, or hobbies.
You’ll want to think carefully about your intentions prior to attending the event so that you are prepared for any networking opportunities that come your way.
Here are some things to consider before attending a networking event:
- Of course, you’ll want to consider why you are attending the event at all. Are you there just to meet people? Are you open to discussing a business opportunity? Will you feel comfortable with the potential topics discussed?
- Make sure to consider the networking situation. Is the networking environment a place, time, and locale you are comfortable with? Has the event been swiftly switched to a virtual format? You’ll want to consider language barriers, foreign procedures, and methods of transportations.
- Are you a talkative person? Are you willing to engage in small talk or do you want to go straight into business? Are people intimidated by the way you talk, or are you too shy? Much of your personality will come in to play during networking conversation, so make sure you objectively weigh your strengths and weaknesses.
- Do you have any materials that you need to bring? Business cards, a portfolio, a proposal, a pen and paper, your phone, a phone charger… these are the types of things that you may need when going to an event like this.
- Do you have anything on your mind? If you are busy or stressed out in another part of your life, attending a professional networking event with the goal of making genuine connections may be too low on your list. If this is the case, you do not necessarily need to nix the event altogether. Instead, consider ways that you can adapt to overcome these stresses and still have a positive networking experience.
- Is the networking event online? Nowadays, many networking events have moved into a virtual format. This might change up how the event is conducted and, depending on your personality or your schedule, this may even work out to your advantage.
Networking is not just about that business relationship. After all, you could attend any type of social event with networking and business connections in mind. But usually, networking is all about the intention.
When you attend an event with networking in mind, you want to be sure that you are prepared. Preparation for a professional networking event can vary widely by individual, individual goals, and personal intention.
Why You Should Be Open to Developing Real Relationships at Networking Events
When you are networking with the intention of creating real relationships, you will see a number of benefits. These might include creating long time friendships, building long-time business relationships with people you trust, and creating a positive name for both yourself and the person with whom you make an honest connection.
Seeking genuine relationships at networking events allows you to improve upon the traditional benefits of networking in general. A real relationship is best understood as a relationship that includes a sense of trust and openness in discussion and dialogue.
Notably, having genuine communication with someone in business interactions can be difficult. Genuine communication does not mean that you have to give away your business secrets or divulge certain pieces of information, but it does mean, focusing on being candid and expressing proper, appropriate, emotions. Keep an open mind, you will never know what your networking efforts may lead to.
Best Practices for Creating Real Relationships at a Networking Event
Being more open about yourself at a business networking event can be intimidating. This might be because sometimes, it may seem, people may be out to get you. If you are vulnerable in a conversation, you may be afraid that what you share could be used against you.
However, seeking a real relationship does not mean that your vulnerability is a negative. Instead, it can mean that you have a genuine interest in the success of another person or business and will enjoy the conversations you have for what they are. Be present and in the moment.
Here are some best practices to consider when seeking real business relationships during a conversation:
- We all experience common problems. Everyone is going through similar struggles. This is part of life. While they might not experience your exact situation, chances are they have had some experience with common life events. Maybe they have gotten married, broken up with a partner, experienced discrimination, or experienced financial trouble. No matter what, be kind about these things and try not to make statements that would make someone feel bad about a common life event.
- It’s okay to ask “tough” questions. Questions that move past small talk might open up more areas for real relationships. Maybe a potential business partner has a hobby that you both love. If you hit it off, then there is the potential for you two to participate in that hobby together. You could gain both a new business partner and a long term friend.
- Don’t pry. Okay, so we are starting to open up to each other more often—that’s great! But, this might not always be the case. Some people may not feel comfortable talking about anything personal. It doesn’t matter the reason; all that matters is that you don’t pry.
- Practice acceptance. In business, there are sometimes clear lines drawn between social groups. If you practice acceptance, you might find some friends in unlikely places. Not only will this be a benefit for you, but you might also make someone’s day. This might not make great waves in the industry, but this move is always the right move. Diversity should be a reality in life and at work.
- Go outside your comfort zone, even online. If the networking event is virtual, then you have actually a better opportunity to create more real relationships. This is because meeting people online takes away some of the social barriers that exist. Maybe they weren’t someone you would have walked up to in person. However, in a virtual environment, you can provide your contact information or open up a private chat to get to know someone. You may be surprised at what you find. Communication can sometimes flow more easily when you are not standing with someone face to face.
- Swap social media accounts. If you are meeting business people and you hit it off, swap LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook handles. This way you can stay connected even after the event while also growing your social networks.
Creating a meaningful relationship is easier said than done. Sometimes, people are too timid and shy and do not feel like opening up to you. However, other times, you may find that you hit it off with the other person and make a genuine connection.
Creating real relationships at a networking event can be beneficial not only for both of your businesses but for your wellbeing and that of the community, too. Ask more personal questions and be open to any kind of answer if you want to make these sorts of connections. You may be surprised what can come of it!
Be sure to try these networking tips for relationship building at your next networking event, even if it is hosted in a hybrid or virtual format.