How to make new contacts through networking
In business networking the aim is to meet useful new contacts, people who might hire you and who might prove influential in commissioning decisions.
Many people don’t like the idea of this but networking (i.e., think of it as putting a face to a name) is a useful method of breaking the ice with prospective clients and building your contact list. It’s not something that only takes place at formal networking events either but anywhere where there are new people to meet.
To improve your networking results, consider the following suggestions:
- Find out who will be at the event beforehand – is there someone attending that you definitely want to meet? Google them online to find out what they look like so you can spot them when you get there.
- Find out how long the event will last and set yourself a target: “Tonight I’m going to introduce myself to three new people”. Once you’ve achieved this, you can retreat to the buffet if that’s what you want. But, you’re more likely to find that you’re engrossed in conversation once you’ve made the first move.
- Take your business cards – you’ll want to leave your contact details and remember to take them from the people you meet.
- Psych yourself up – remember that you’re there for a reason and that somebody out there is going to benefit from meeting you!
- Work the room – don’t lose your nerve and lodge yourself comfortably in a corner with someone you know. Let your personality show through – don’t just talk about your work.
- Ask questions and show interest. Be genuine – don’t drop people as soon as you discover that they are of no use to you. It’s rude and you don’t want to get a reputation for being ‘that creep who is always on the make.’ Also, people may be/or will be more influential than you initially think and you don’t know who they know.
- Introduce people to each other and provide information: you’ll often get the favour returned.
- Use positive body language: smile and make eye-contact – have fun. Remember, other people will be nervous too so if you put them at their ease, they’ll warm to you.
- Make sure that you’ve planned what to say if somebody asks what you do. For example, simply saying you’re a musician doesn’t give much away. So, come up with a short introduction that explains what you do in an interesting and informative way dropping in the odd benefit where possible (see section 1 of this module).
- Follow up: if you’ve met a potential client, contact them soon after (while you’re still fresh in their mind). You might want to email an example of your work or, if you have a idea to pitch, arrange a meeting.
From these lessons, you’ll see that there are many pro-active steps you can take towards gaining new work. It’s a keenly competitive work environment but taking at least some targeted action in the above areas will help you create work continuity. Also, you’re likely to source more work that is better quality and higher paid.
Don’t think you have to do everything at once. Planning what you need to do and taking a step-by-step approach is the way forward