Networking is a skill easy to master but it’s more than collecting a stack of business cards. Successful business executives have honed their networking abilities and take advantage of conferences as premier networking opportunities.
Here are a few tips I have found useful:
- Advance planning - When attending a conference or meeting; it’s important to plan in advance who you would like to connect with during the event. Review the registration list and target people and companies and make a plan. If you set appointments in advance all the better, which perhaps means meeting at an exhibitor’s booth or sitting together at one of the ANI networking events. They are there for the same purpose, so someone who you may not have been able to reach in their office may be far more receptive during a conference.
- Reminders- Email a reminder of networking appointments and plan to email a thank you or send a note. A good tip is traveling with thank you notes and use airport time to jot a few before returning to your office.
- Spontaneous opportunities-At a conference there are spontaneous opportunities, waiting in line at the elevator or waiting for lunch, you may see someone’s name badge and strike up a conversation. When you engage in conversation with someone try to make it more about them and ask open ended questions. Learn how, why, what, when rather than talk about yourself and your company.
- Stop selling and build the relationship-People do business with people they know and trust. Getting to know someone at a conference and planning to follow up is much more effective than trying to sell your product at the first meeting. Exhibitors should remember this as well and be prepared to follow up their leads, exhibiting is an introduction, not necessarily the sale.
- Think about your elevator speech-Have a clear understanding of what you do and why, for whom, and what makes you doing it special or different from others doing the same thing. In order to get referrals, you must first have a clear understanding of what you do that you can easily articulate to others.
- Be a resource for others -Helping someone goes a long way in building a relationship. Jot down something about a person you’ve met on their business card and try to send them a clipping or referral. They’ll remember you from the others they met at the conference. People will remember you as someone they can turn to for suggestions, ideas, etc.
- Be able to articulate what you are looking for and how others may help you. Too often people in conversations ask, "How may I help you?" and no immediate answer comes to mind.
- Be genuine-Networking is about being genuine, authentic, building trust and relationships. See how you can help others.
- You’ve committed to come to the ANI and now it’s your responsibility to build your visibility and raise your profile. Go to every social and business gathering that you possibly can while at ANI. Seek out new people to talk with as well as connecting with old friends.
- Meet the board of directors at AAHAM and introduce yourself. We are seeking new leadership and learn from them how they became board members.
- Break away from the pack-Try to break away from the people you know from your chapter, you’ll see them at the next meeting. ANI is also for meeting new people and building your network. You may learn from someone across the country what they are doing at their hospital or AAHAM chapter that would be beneficial.
- Have fun, ANI offers many opportunities for business fun. Our days are long but so worthwhile.
I look forward to seeing you in San Diego.