In honor of the Mega Mixer tonight, where I will be surrounded by hundreds of other entrepreneurs and business people trying to make new connections, here are a few of my favorite networking tips and previous posts.
1. The purpose of networking is to build and maintain connections.
If you find yourself clinging to your friends, just remember that, in order to build your business, you need to meet *new* people as well as reconnect with people you already know. If there's no one you know at a networking event, that's great! More opportunities to meet someone new.
2. Act like you're the host.
If you don't know anyone and you dread breaking into a group already in conversation, look around for other people who are alone. Introduce yourself and make them feel welcome. They'll be grateful for your initiative, and you'll meet more people!
3. Focus on the person you're with.
Just about the rudest thing you can do at a networking event is to constantly be looking for someone better to talk to -- while you're actually talking to someone.
One good thing about networking events is that you're expected to mingle, so if you find that the person you're talking to isn't particularly fascinating, you can move on. In fact, even when your partner *is* fascinating, you should move on. But give the boring guy a chance; you never know where the relationship might lead.
4. If there's a question you dread, practice your answer.
Are you uncomfortable with certain questions? Maybe you were fired from your last job and don't want to mention that employer in conversation. Prepare your answer in advance and practice how you will respond in a way that makes you feel comfortable. This one simple step will reduce a lot of your networking anxiety.
5. Think about giving, not getting.
Think about how you can be a resource to the people you meet, instead of concentrating on how you can get business from them.
Share your contacts who might be good referrals for them. After the meeting, visit their websites to learn more. Follow up with an e-mail or a quick call to let them know you enjoyed meeting them. Send them articles or websites you think would be suitable for them. Be memorable and indispensable and don't worry about "getting" stuff for yourself.
For more information on networking, check out these posts:
My three rules of networking
Networking: Exit a conversation
What not to do when networking
Talk benefits, not features
Do you have my permission?
And check out Jane Pollak's blog for a great networking post from a few months back.
What are your favorite networking tips?