No matter how much technology might cause us to spend time looking at screens, nothing can replace that in-person interaction that connects people and helps us truly get to know each other.
In-person networking is an age-old practice, but one that’s more relevant than ever in today’s internet focused world. There’s just something you get from meeting people, shaking hands, and connecting with them in person that you can’t get through email.
There are multiple benefits of upping your face-to-face networking game, not the least of which is contributing to your tech business reputation, which is like the torque in your marketing engine… where the real power comes from.
How Can Networking Benefit My Company’s Reputation?
Putting a name (and business) to a face can go a long way towards enhancing your company’s reputation overall. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to generate more business and have fun meeting new people.
Business professionals that network earn an average of $12.50 for every dollar invested in face-to-face meetings.
When you look at a few networking statistics, you might be surprised to find out just how important those in-person meetups and events can be. Here are a few that emphasize how trust and reputation can be built by in-person networking:
- 72% of people say that their impression is influenced by others’ experience and their handshake.
- Your words are just 7% of the information that people perceive about you.
- 55% of communication depends upon your facial expressions and posture.
- 95% of professionals believe that communicating face to face is vital for long term business.
Whether you attend meetings at your Chamber of Commerce or volunteer at a local charity, getting out there and networking in-person not only gives you and your company a reputation boost, it also benefits you both personally and professionally.
Builds Trust & Credibility
If you give others in your community a chance to know you, hear your ideas, and learn more about what you do, it builds trust and strengthens your overall personal and business reputation.
When you’re in a networking setting, you may have the opportunity to assist a colleague with an issue they have or give a piece of technology related advice, which will increase your credibility.
Networking allows you to create an impression of your business by contributing to conversations, offering teaching moments, and simply interacting with others in a more relaxed setting. All these things can build a positive perception of you which transfers over to your company.
Have you ever heard about a big corporate networking project after it was already awarded to a competitor and wondered, how they did they know about it first?
Often, it’s being in the right place at the right time, and having a network built up can help you do that.
If someone in a networking group needs to find an IT company for an upcoming project, they’re most likely to look first to those they know and trust. If you’ve built up a professional relationship through in-person networking, you’re creating opportunities for yourself to be in the right place at the right time.
It’s a win-win when those connections can help both parties. The client saves a lot of time searching for a good IT company for their project, and you earn more business because you’ve already built a reputation through your networking.
Gain Valuable Insights
There’s something called Social Capital, which is the value assigned to membership in a social group. Social Capital can include the ability to secure benefits, create influence, and gain insights you may not have had otherwise.
For example, say through participating in several networking events, you hear more than once during conversation how “the next big thing” being considered at several companies is moving to the new Windows Virtual Desktops.
This gives you the opportunity to increase your marketing for WVDs and position your company as having a reputation to anticipate and meet the evolving technology needs of businesses.
Self Esteem Boost
When you feel good about yourself, it shows in your demeanor and how you conduct business. You have more confidence, which enhances your business reputation.
Developing new relationships creates higher self-esteem and once you get past any initial shyness about putting yourself out there in a networking situation, you’ll become more comfortable and that comfort and confidence will draw people to you (and your business).
Positions You as a Local Expert
If you’re the only IT guru in your networking group that handles data privacy compliance support, you’ll soon be seen as the local expert on compliance needs, and most likely be the recipient of plenty of questions from other business owners.
Being seen as an expert boosts your standing individually and that of your company as well. It can also open the door to being invited to give a presentation on HIPAA or PCI compliance at a future networking event, which will naturally mean more leads and future business, and the chance to help those companies with an important need.
Tips for Successful In-Person Networking
It can be intimidating at first to come up with ways to “network,” and can sound like work rather than something that’s enjoyable.
Think of in-person networking events as just a way to socialize with others in your community and don’t go in with a sales mentality. Connections will occur naturally as you just get to know other people and share your interests, hobbies, insights, and future goals.
Here are a few tips to help you get started networking successfully.
Plan Your Networking Schedule in Advance
If you take a lackadaisical attitude to networking and just think, “When I see something, I’ll plan to go,” then you’re not really going to reap many of the reputational benefits that those in-person meetings can offer.
Look for a variety of networking opportunities in your area and start out by planning to attend one per month. As you get more comfortable and meet more people, more opportunities will open up.
Some initial places you can look for networking opportunities include:
- S. Chamber of Commerce
- Rotary Club
- Toastmasters International
- S. Small Business Administration
And while LinkedIn is an online networking platform, it also has plenty of local groups. It offers another way to connect both online and offline with people and get to know more about them before you see them at an in-person event.
You can also host your own networking event with some fellow local small businesses to get the ball rolling.
Come Up With a 30-second “About Me”
When you’re first introduced to someone at a networking event, you might not say exactly what you want about who you are and what you do.
It doesn’t hurt to plan out a 30-second mini-biography about yourself ahead of time, so you won’t be caught off guard and can feel more comfortable during introductions.
Good networking starts with good listening skills. It helps to learn as much as you can about the people you’re meeting and getting to know. People love to talk about themselves, so asking a few questions such as, “What do you do on the weekends?” or “What brings you here today?” can be great conversation starters.
They’ll also naturally lead to you telling a bit more about yourself as well and… boom! Networking happens!
Here’s a list of several different ice breaker questions to use when networking to get conversations started.
Don’t Lead with a Sales Pitch
Yes, most people come to networking events to build their business, but it’s not about the hard sell. It’s more of a “get to know you” atmosphere that naturally leads to everyone asking about everyone else’s business and looking at ways you can both benefit from that Social Capital.
Approach networking as wanting to learn about the PERSON first, and finding points of interest that connect you, rather than just thinking about what you can sell someone. Not only will that make networking more enjoyable for you, it’ll also lead to more genuine connections and potential business that naturally flows from that.
Bring Your Business Cards
Yes, business cards are still important even in this internet age. It’s the best way to quickly exchange contact details, and many smartphones now have apps that can take a snapshot of a business card and populate it in into a contact record.
If you plan on visiting some networking events to help boost your business reputation, it’s not a bad idea to see if your business card needs a branding update to help you make a great first impression.
Use Notes to Help You Remember People
When you meet a lot of people at a networking event, it can be hard to remember which one mentioned needing a review of their IT security and which one said they had an office move coming up.
Use notes about what the person is wearing or something memorable they said to help remember who was who. Jot these down on the back of their business card or take a picture of their card and make a note on your smartphone.
Ask What Other Events People Attend
Asking people that you meet while networking what other events they attend can open up a whole new world of possibilities. You might find one that’s particularly well attended, but not easily found in online event listings.
You can also land on great volunteer opportunities that allow you to get to know people in your community better at the same time as giving back and helping others.
Enjoy Building Your Networking Skills
Networking can be an enjoyable way to get to know other professionals in your community while also strengthening your business reputation. Have fun with it!
Do you have some tips for in-person networking? Share them in the comments!