There are a million different tactics for networking successfully. You have probably read guides telling you how to hand out business cards, give a good handshake, pick out a good contact from a crowd and organise yourself afterwards. While these are all useful tips to bear in mind, often the most important thing you can prepare is your mindset.
Attitude is everything when it comes to meeting potential business contacts. If you've ever had a conversation with someone at a conference that hasn't ended well, and you aren't sure why, often it will be because you simply weren't in the right mindset to begin with. Luckily, this is something you can easily fix.
So, how can you get your head in the right place for networking? Here are a few ways you can think to make sure you get the most out of your next opportunity to make business contacts:
Think about what you can do for them
It is common to approach a networking situation thinking about how each person will be able to benefit you and your business. This is a good thing to think about, but it should not be your main focus. Instead, you should think about what you can do for all the people you meet.
There are two benefits to this. Firstly, it will often make you more confident. You will be sure about your own abilities, so you will be able to take control of the conversation rather than playing a game of 20 questions trying to find out what benefit each person you meet might be able to provide your business.
Secondly, it will put you in a better position to make long-lasting connections. If you approach people immediately wanting to know what they can do for you then you might come across as needy or selfish. If, on the other hand, you are trying to help them out from the get-go they will be a lot more inclined to return the favour.
It's not a competition
You might think the aim of each networking event is to grab as many business cards as you can, but this is not the case. You don't want to end up feeling miserable at the end if you feel you haven't done very well, and you don't want to ruin your chances of making a useful contact by rushing off to collect three more!
Take your time and be patient. Don't see it as a race or as a competition. Focus on a single contact, forge a connection then move onto the next one, only thinking about one person at a time.
Grow your connections
A lot of people think of networking as being a bit like farming: you plant seeds and watch them grow. This is one of the best ways to view it. Your contacts might not be hugely valuable to you at first, but you have to give them the opportunity to grow.
As such, while you are networking you shouldn't see a contact as worthless if you have not immediately forged a meaningful connection. Often, it is fine to just have traded business cards, as they will grow to be incredibly useful in the future.