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You are at a networking event. It’s a beehive; everyone’s having a conversation. You want to start one too, but you’re not sure how you should go about it. You’re there to gain valuable new contacts. The scene before you makes that mission a tad difficult. So you think.

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What should you do to land those quality business connections?

Here’s your answer: Take some steps back to a few hours—maybe even days –before you arrive in the networking arena. That’s when you set your goals for the session and decide how to get the attention of those high-value founders and executives who’ll be attending. Then go out there, armed with your plan, and execute to success.

In this article, we’ll lay out seven steps you can take to gain game-changing contacts at your next networking event.

Be Prepared

Research the event beforehand, so you’ll know what you’ll be dealing with when you’re there. Find out what the theme is, what kind of people could be attending, and any other detail that may determine the kinds of conversations you’re going to have. Come up with decent ways to introduce yourself and start discussions. And make sure you have an ample supply of business cards (which you’ll be handing out). Take more than you think you’ll need.

Have A Goal

It’s wise to have a goal (or several goals) you’re aiming to achieve at the networking event. It could be gaining new clients, finding potential partners, meeting possible investors, or securing important introductions or recommendations.

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Be sure to clearly define your intention, so that it’s easier for you to target and succeed.

Focus On Starting Relationships

Don’t dive into conversations just to make a sale; whoever you’re talking with will likely sense what you’re trying to do, and may be put off by it. Instead, try to listen as much as you speak. Be genuinely interested in knowing who your conversation partner is, and what they do. Ask meaningful questions, and respond to theirs as an interested professional would. This way, you’ll make a good impression, and increase your chances of building a valuable business relationship with them.

Prove Your Expertise

A sure way to capture (and keep) the attention of most people at a networking event is by providing them with value. You can do this by sharing insights that they’ll find useful. If you’re knowledgeable about your niche or industry, you could help your conversation partners with insights from your experience that they’ll appreciate. When your expertise shines through, you’ll make an impression on just the kinds of people you’d like to have on your contact list. It’ll pave the way for future engagements and fruitful working relationships.

Keep It Simple And Short

You want to meet as many potential partners, clients, or referrers as possible. Everyone else at a networking session wants this too. Why not keep things simple and short? Ideally, your conversations should last between five and ten minutes.

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You are free to move on to someone else when a discussion begins to feel like it’s dragging on. And you could keep it alive just a little longer if there are signs that it’ll produce something significant. Just don’t be the one to waste some other person’s time—or yours for that matter.

Follow Up

Your interactions at a networking event are only the first step to building stable business relationships. What you do in the days and weeks after the session is just as important to the process. You will want to follow up with an email thanking your contacts for their time, and requesting a subsequent meeting if that’s proper.

Attend The Right Event

This should probably be the first tip, but it also works as a final suggestion. Regardless of how well prepared you are for a networking event, you probably won’t get a lot out of it if it’s not attended by forward-looking businesspeople, or organized by a decent host.

If you’d like to attend a networking event that ticks both of these two boxes, you should check out the Connect Nigeria Business Mixer. It’s a monthly gathering of founders, executives and decision-makers from across Nigeria’s business landscape. There are always connections to be made and deals to be done. You don’t want to miss it.

You can register for this month’s edition of the Connect Nigeria Business Mixer here.

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This article was first published on 28th September 2022


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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