We’ve all been there. As soon as you enter the room you’re attacked. A guy you’ve never met is super excited about a new energy drink and this is your opportunity to get in on the ground floor. Then there’s the guy who swears your website is not as effective as it should be and he promises no one is better at fixing it than he is. Minutes later you’re nearly tackled by a woman who promises your business will fail unless you buy branded promotional items from her.
In the first ten minutes at a networking event you could have five or more business cards from people that want you to do business with them. It’s annoying and it’s an ineffective way to build a business. I hope you’re not one of those people shoving your business card into the hand of someone you just met. If you are, here’s how to fix it.
Go to a Networking Event without Business Cards
If that headline freaks you out, perhaps you need this advice more than anyone else. You can be effective at networking without giving away a single business card. Networking is about relationships. Instead of attending an event to pick up more business, you should attend with the goal of meeting new people and helping them. It’s tough to screw this up if you leave your business cards at home.
Instead of giving people your card, ask them for their card. If someone asks you for your card, tell them you don’t have one, but get theirs and promise to follow up.
How many times have you given your card to someone who said they’d call but never followed through? When you get their card you can be assured you’ll be able to reach them.
Connect with People and Help Them
Follow up with your new friends after the event. Remember, networking is about relationships and helping people. Look them up on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and interact with them. Change your Facebook notifications to receive birthday reminders. When their birthday comes up, send them an email or call and wish them a great day.
Put them into a “networking” twitter list and stay on top of what they’re doing. Send them helpful resources and retweet resources they put out.
Leave your cards at home until you get good at this and be cautious when you start using them again. The last thing you want is to be the guy shoving a card into someone’s hand.