3 Things I Learned About Networking from a Couple of Pros

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I recently attended a networking event here in NYC.

After walking around for maybe an hour, talking with a number of people and exchanging business cards, two well-dressed guys standing off to the side shouted my name “Justin!” and motioned for me to come over.

I thought for a second I had met them somewhere else (I hadn’t).

They had seen my name and title from my name sticker while I was talking with someone else. As soon as I was done talking with that person, they captured my attention.

I shook both of their hands and they started telling me about their app. It sounded intriguing and I wanted to learn more.

I realized something: these guys knew how to network.

They did a few big things that many others fail to do.

First, they got my attention

They were unique. They could have easily walked over to me and introduced themselves. But they tried something different: calling out my name and getting my attention from a distance.

Something so simple, but it made an impact. Nobody else I met did anything close to that. That made them memorable.

Second, they gave me something tangible

Most of the people I talked to (and myself included) kept it to verbal conversation. At most they would exchange business cards.

But these guys had an extra visual: they pulled up the app on their phone and gave me a quick demo.

This was by far the best presentation I saw the entire night. He had clearly practiced it and was ready to go for anyone who would listen.

Maybe you aren’t developing an app. Consider other visuals to show a stranger who is interested in your business.

Business cards are necessary, but common. You want something extra. And technology gives you so many options for making a quick visual impact.

Maybe you can show photos of your products on your phone. Or perhaps a 15 second video or GIF on your tablet. If your product is small enough, maybe you can carry a sample with you.

If you’re offering a special promotion, print up cards or flyers with the discount code.

Bring a bundle of pens or key chains with your logo or website printed on them.

You can even wear something related to your service–a lanyard, a button, a pin, a hat or other accessory. Get creative.

Third, they were professional and prepared

You’d be amazed at how many people at networking events are unprofessional. By that I mean: they don’t have a business card, don’t have a coherent pitch, or don’t have a website. Sometimes all three!

I’m still disturbed by how many people in the “tech” or app development field don’t even have a simple web page with contact info. You would think tech people, of all people, would be current with the times.

Even a free page sponsored by Go Daddy or WordPress is better than nothing.

If all you have is your cell phone number or your corporate business card for your “real” job, you’re not ready for prime time.

I ran out of business cards during the event, since I didn’t know how many people I would meet. It turned out much bigger than I expected.

But I still had a backup: I can show my website to them on my phone, I have several professional email addresses, and they can add my business page on Facebook or Linked In.

Networking for Impact

Remember, at any networking event, people are there to meet potential customers, vendors and business partners. Everyone is there for the same purpose. They want to do business.

Have your pitch down, be ready to make a great first impression, and know who you are looking to meet.

And if someone is particularly interested in your service, be ready to follow through on the spot with the next step–whether that means scheduling a phone call or setting up a meeting, or taking their order information right then and there.

(Bring your Square or PayPal credit card reader to take purchases on the spot.)

I don’t do very many networking events, and maybe you don’t either. But if you’re going to do them, at least be prepared to make an impact and do it right.

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