Here are helpful tips for business owners in helping your employees navigate networking/business events:
- Virtual Networking events, after hour business functions, and chamber community update events, etc. are all extensions of the workplace and, really, the workday, so the behavior of your employees should be as professional and unimpeachable as it is during the day at the office.
- For in-person after hour events having alcohol, make sure your liability insurance policies are adequate.
- Does company have an updated code of conduct? There has never been an instance where having one too many drinks in front of peers, prospects, your boss or co-workers has helped someone’s career or business image.
- Encourage you employees to attend virtual networking events. These structured events can be just as effective and in many cases more productive. Their is no drive time, no mileage reimbursement, no alcohol and significantly less liability for the business owner.
- For an interesting research study entitled What Really Happens at Mixers, check out the research study from the Columbia Business School.
- Request your employees set reasonable expectations. When attending an event, they must understand why they are attending. Is it to meet ten new people or just hang out with friends? Is the goal to increase your company's brand awareness? Is it to meet specific people? Are your employees skilled in the art of building relationships or are they simply trying to land a sale and turning people off in the process? These are all reasonable expectations and it takes a little pre planning to set these goals. Virtual networking events make it easier to document results ( with auto matching your employee will typically meet 10-14 business professionals, and if the parties agree they will receive a ebusiness card verifying a contact was made).
Networking Etiquette Tips To Share With Your Employees:
- Don’t be a card spammer (in-person and virtually). The closest thing to you throwing all of your business cards away is handing them out to anyone and everyone you meet without them asking. If you haven’t built enough rapport with someone to encourage them to ask for your card, don’t offer one.
- Virtual Networking is now booming! Are your employees networking online?
- Take notes. When you ask for someone’s card after having a great conversation, take notes on their business card after they walk away or immediately after the event. This will help you to be more specific in your follow-up
- Introduce yourself to the organizer. A great way to get to know more about an organization and who is involved is to seek out the event organizer and introduce yourself. He/she can then help point you in the right direction and can introduce you to other attendees to get you off on the right foot.
- Treat people like friends. Would you go to a friend, interrupt his/her conversation, hand over a business card, talk about yourself and then walk away? Of course not. Treat new networking relationships as you’d treat your friendships. Build rapport and trust that business will happen.
- Ask great questions. The only way to get to know someone else is to ask them genuine and thoughtful questions. It’s always best to walk away from a conversation having allowed the other person to speak more than you did. Not only will they feel great about the conversation, but you’ll have gotten to know a lot about him/her, helping you plan and execute your follow-up more thoughtfully
- Consider their network. When meeting people, it’s important to remember that even if they can’t help you directly, someone in their network probably can.
- Treat connecting like a puzzle. If you’re asking great questions and considering how you can help others, you’ll naturally start to draw connections between who you are talking to and others in your network. Offer to make these connections. Perhaps they are two people who have the same target client industry, or maybe you know that a contact of yours is looking for the service the other provides. Encourage both parties to follow up with you after they meet so you can hear what came of their interaction. It will not only pay dividends for you, it will also help you hone your matchmaking skills.
- Do NOT “work the room.” ( this is not an issue at virtual networking events.) Don’t try to meet as many people as possible in a room; focus on making just a few solid connections. People can sense when you’re simply speaking with them to grab their card and go. These short interactions will not be memorable and work against you. Aim to meet a few people and begin a meaningful dialogue.
- Don’t be afraid to join in. There is nothing wrong with joining a conversation and waiting for a natural break in the chatter to introduce yourself. In most cases, the people who are already speaking will enjoy the interruption because it gives them a chance to meet someone new. If you sense that you’ve entered into a serious discussion, it’s OK to politely excuse yourself.