10 steps to make networking a breeze

Here's how to own the room at your next networking event and seize every opportunity to get your business out there.

Director of Discovery Finance Group, Joshua Vecchio has written over $250m, using techniques and tips being shared on his website Top Broker.

I know from speaking to brokers, and even having been to various networking events that they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea – in fact I’d say for the majority of people simply hearing the word networking conjures up imagery of awkward conversations with strangers, mundane chat and people trying to hard sell their products and services. But networking hasn’t got to be that bad, in fact it can be a great opportunity to get your business out there, expand your networks and meet business owners and potential referrers you wouldn’t otherwise mingle with.

I’ve been able to make some very strong long term relationships from people I’ve met from networking events, and converted others to current clients so here are my top 10 tips on getting the most out of networking events, and ultimately how to Network like a Boss.

1. Do your homework
Find out who is going to be attending the event and make sure they are the kinds of customers or referrers you are wanting to target. If you are wanting to speak with anyone in particular get to know their business a bit better using Google or checking out their webpage, their history and experience using LinkedIn and even see if you have any common or shared connections which you can always bring up in conversation.

2. Read today’s newspaper
If you are worried about awkward silences or not having any small talk make sure you’ve read the newspaper and find 5 or 6 topics that you can build into conversation. Asking people their opinion is a great way to get the conversation flowing and make them open up much more quickly. This also allows you to find out what people’s interests are much quicker to help build rapport.

3. Don’t arrive too early
I’m always 100% on time for appointments, but personally I don’t like arriving at networking events too early when there are only a few people standing around. It does feel slightly awkward and people tend to be watching the door while guests arrive. Get there a touch later when people are a little bit more relaxed and ready to chat.

4. Focus on the person in front of you. 
How annoying is it when you’re speaking to someone at a networking event who keeps looking over your shoulder, around the room or at their phone completely distracted? Don’t ever be this person. Be 100% focused on the person in front of you, be engaging and give them the time and respect that you would expect from them. If you are trying to find someone else, then politely excuse yourself and move on.

5. Show interest
They say people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. This saying is particularly relevant to networking. Listen intently and actively when your new contact is talking, be engaged in the conversation and show genuine interest. You’ll be remembered as an interesting conversationalist, even though you’ve said very little

6. Business Cards
The classic rookie error! I’ve met countless people at networking functions that forget their business cards, you could be losing business opportunities! I’ve found it best to keep business cards in the left pocket as it allows you to reach them when shaking hands. Keep the business cards you collect in your right pocket, this saves fumbling around trying to find your card as the event goes on.

7. An enthusiastic Elevator Pitch 
When people ask you about your business you need to be excited and enthusiastic about what you do, and how you help your customers – Because if you aren’t, you shouldn’t expect other people to be! You need to have a concise elevator pitch to tell people what you do, and how you help people. Ultimately you want the new contact to be able to sum up exactly what it is that you do, and how you differ from others in the industry – i.e. how you help your customers!

8. Ask open ended questions 
By asking poor questions you should expect to get poor answers. Asking better questions is key at networking events, avoid questions that have yes and no answers. Asking opinions like in the second tip on current news events, or questions about their industry and pain points that might experience day to day could open them up for you to help them with solutions.

9. Help others before asking for business 
At networking events it can be daunting going up to people and creating conversation. So look out for guests standing on the sidelines. Go an introduce yourself, most people in this situation will be grateful and will remember you. If they’re not the outgoing type you could even help to introduce them to other guests that you network with as the even goes on.

10. Lightning fast follow up 
You can be the worlds greatest networker, but if you go and meet 5 key people at the event and never follow them up then you completely wasted your time in the first place. It is critical that after having met people at a function you follow up the next day with a few of the points discussed and arrange a catch up to cement the relationship. Once you have a strong relationship then the business will follow.

So next time you go to a networking event, how will you run it Like a Boss and make better conversations, stronger relationships and create the results you want?

This article originally appeared on Top Broker, a growing online space where tips and strategies are shared by Australia's top mortgage brokers.