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David Duncan - Chair, Sutton Chamber
Providing a variety of networking opportunities to help our members grow their businesses is one of the primary objectives of the Sutton Chamber of Commerce. Networking isn't just about having lunch or chatting over a glass of wine.
Networking in business is about sharing information, learning about each other's business and helping grow each other's business. Networking can take many forms. It happens at our events designed specifically for networking like our Breakfast Networking events but it also happens on our committees and at our workshops, it happens at our Business Awards Gala and our Golf Tournament, and it happens when our members meet each other in a restaurant and on the street. Networking is a very powerful way to grow your business and the Chamber makes developing relationships through networking easier.
The Chamber works hard to provide networking opportunities for all our members. Our Committee designs and schedules events designed specifically to maximize your networking opportunities. We even host seminars to teach you how to get the most out of networking events. Our events are designed specifically so that you can meet suppliers, customers, new business-people and peers.
So here are your top 10 valuable networking tips
1. Always arrive early, Showing up early at a networking event is a much better strategy than getting there late. As a first attendee, you'll notice that it's calmer and quieter – and people won't have settled into groups yet. It's easier to find other people who don't have conversation partners yet.
2. Ask easy questions. Don't stand around the edges of the room waiting for someone to approach you. To get the conversation started, simply walk up to a person or a group, and say, "May I join you" or "What brings you to this event?" Don't forget to listen intently to their replies. If you're not a natural extrovert, you're probably a very good listener – and listening can be an excellent way to get to know a person.
3. Forget the sales pitch. Remember that networking is all about relationship building. Keep your exchange fun, light and informal – you don't need to do the hard sell within minutes of meeting a person. The idea is to get the conversation started. People are more apt to do business with – or partner with – people whose company they enjoy.
4. If a potential customer does ask you about your product or service, be ready with an easy description of your company. Before the event, create a mental list of recent accomplishments, such as a new client you've landed or project you've completed. That way, you can easily pull an item off that list and into the conversation.
5. Share your passion. Win people over with your enthusiasm for your product or service. Leave a lasting impression by telling a story about why you were inspired to create your company. Talking about what you enjoy is often contagious, too. When you get other people to share their passion, it creates a memorable two-way conversation.
6. Try to make introductions. If someone is on their own, invite them into your group. If one contact needs help or advice from another bring them together. They will remember you for the introduction and may return the favour in the future.
7. Smile. It's a simple – but often overlooked – rule of engagement. By smiling, you'll put your nervous self at ease, and you'll also come across as warm and inviting to others. Remember to smile before you enter the room, or before you start your next conversation. If you're really dreading the event leave the negative attitude at the door.
8. Don't hijack the conversation. Some people who dislike networking may overcompensate by commandeering the discussion. Remember: the most successful networkers (think of those you've met) are good at making other people feel special. Look people in the eye, repeat their name, listen to what they have to say, and suggest topics that are easy to discuss. Be a conversationalist, not a talker. With two eyes and two ears and one mouth you should watch and listen twice as much as you speak.
9. Remember to follow up. It's often said that networking is where the conversation begins, not ends. If you've had a great exchange, ask your conversation partner the best way to stay in touch. Some people like email or phone; others prefer social networks like LinkedIn. Get in touch within 48 hours of the event to show you're interested and available, and reference your conversation.
10. If you do exchange business cards try to do it like the Japanese: hand your card over carefully, receive their card graciously, read their details slowly and write your notes on their card to remember the conversation.