Today’s post is written as a resource for the Kent State University Entrepreneur Extravaganza.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve come to realize that knowing how to improve your networking will improve your ability to market and brand your business.

Why is networking so important to entrepreneurs?

  1. Starting and running a business requires  many facets of talent and experience.
  2.  Having friends and business acquaintances who can help you find the right answers and resources is powerful.
  3. By networking you get connected to other people who can and will help.
  4. When you know a lot of people, there are more answers at your fingertips
  5. As an entrepreneur, you need resources to bring your idea to market

Step-by Step Networking:

Keep your business cards in your right pocket, with your left pocket free to put their business cards.  If there are name tags provided put it on the right side of our lapel (people look to the right  when they shake hands.)

Don’t have a plate of food in one hand and a drink in the other.  How can  you shake hands? Grasp a business card? Don’t be chewing when someone wants to introduce you to someone else.  Just because there is food there, doesn’t mean you have to eat it.

Depending on the event, on your way there think about some casual small talk subjects for some of the casual conversations: weather, sports or other general, non controversial topics.  Have some short good answers ready for the common opening questions: where are you from? how did you get involved in this organization (if the event is hosted by an organization) and the favorite: “what do you do?”

A good networker is always ready for the what to you do with their 30 second commercial/elevator speech.  I’ve found that just launching into the full 30 seconds is a real conversation killer, so be prepared to  have a more back and forth conversation.

The 30 second commercial works when you are seated in a room of business professionals and the person at the microphone says: let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves, where we are from and what we do.  When it’s your turn, you stand, take a breath and tell the group who you help, why it is helpful to them, the name of your company and your name.  Meanwhile, you’ll be listening to the others to figure out who else you’ll need to meet before the event is over.

After the event:
Follow up after an event makes all the difference.  Either enter the contacts into your database or use an online contact system like Linked In.  Send an email to the person you promised to supply information to. Write a handwritten note to someone you will want to stay in contact with.  Perhaps schedule a phone call or meet for coffee to get to know more about the person and their resources.

You’ll want to reach out and connect two people who could help each other. That is where networking really gets strong.  When you become the connector you become the resource.

Online Networking
Many of the same concepts apply on line.  Your 30 second commercial is incorporated into your summary statement on LinkedIn. Or much shorter on your 140 character profile on Twitter.  Some advantages of online networking: you can move at your own pace, on your own time. It is searchable to find who you want or what you need, even when you don’t remember or know their name.

Networking on line or in person is a key for entrepreneurs.

Helpful Links to Improve Your Networking Results:

Entrepreneurs: How to Use Networking to Market Your Business and Yourself