By Will Kintish, Business Networking and Online Networking Skills Expert
Whenever you have a meeting with clients or prospects, there’s a fair chance that you’re going to do some preparation and planning. In fact there is every chance that you will, otherwise you will attend feeling nervous, unprepared and unprofessional - the list is endless!
From my experience, most people attend business events without doing any preparation and planning and then wonder why they are somewhere between nervous all the way through to petrified of strangers.
Those are those funny people our mummies told us not to talk to when we were four years old! That was great advice then but now that we’re adults, when we go networking, rumour has it that we are expected to talk to strangers.
Let us now consider the words we should use when we ask those open questions. i.e. the ‘who-what-why-where-when-which-how’ openers to the answers we are looking for when we actually attend events.
Consider who is likely to be there. If possible phone your host for a guest list and then do some research. There may be someone on the list who you would consider a target prospect. The more you know about your fellow guests the better. Unless you receive a personal invite, it’s possible that the organisers will not be able to send you a list in advance due to data protection etc. Therefore get there early and scan that list. However, if you do receive a personal invitation, phone your host and try and find out who is going to be there. This is particularly important when you’re going to a small gathering i.e. a dinner or a corporate or sporting event.
The more you know the more comfortable you will feel.
The other ‘who’ questions should be ‘is it me who should be going or is someone else from my organisation better suited’. ‘Should I take someone else with me to I ensure that there are two people ‘working the room’’.
What is the event all about? The more you know about the format the better; this will make you feel more comfortable. Is there going to be food? I recently went to an event where I assumed there would be some food, there was — however, it was so small one needed a microscope to check it out! Not having eaten since lunch time, the first glass of wine went straight to the head and I don’t think I was quite in control as I should have been.
Why is this event being held? If it’s a particular celebration by the host, then it’s good to know what exactly what is going on. Consider also why you’re going — what do you want out of it? Set yourself some targets and turn it into a bit of a game.
Where is it? Plan your timings and travel arrangements there and back. Are you likely to drink, if so, are you going to need to arrange public transport or a taxi?
Ensure that as soon as you except the invitation you put it in your diary, check the timings and make sure it doesn’t clash with anything else you’re supposed to be going to either before or after the event.
Which dress or suit should you be wearing? Remember, you’re there to raise your profile and create the right and appropriate impression. If everyone is in dinner suits and you’re in a lounge suit — is that appropriate? If you turn up in ‘smart/casual’ and everyone else is in a suit would you be happy and comfortable with this?
How are you going to get the best out of these two precious hours? How are you going to ensure that you make the right impression? Have you got a clear, concise and interesting answer to the question ‘what do you do?’ How many business cards are you going to take with you? How many ahaa moments should you be aiming for?
There is no reason whatsoever why you shouldn’t be as professional in your networking as you are in your everyday life. The only way you are going to be able to do this is to ensure you are prepared and ready for the fray!
The author of this article is Will Kintish, leading UK authority on effective and confident networking both offline and online. If you’d like Will to speak at your conference or training workshops, call him on 0161 773 3727. Visit www.kintish.co.uk and www.kintish.tv and www.linkedintraining.co.uk for further free and valuable information on all aspects of both face-to-face and social networking.
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