Walk into any business function or event where you’ll be expected to network can give even the best socialiser a chill down the spine.

But don’t let that deter you. Firstly, remember that everyone there is in the same boat – you’re all strangers, everyone with the same apprehension.

Secondly, follow these rules of business networking etiquette and know that you will be successful. It’s like baking a cake – just follow the recipe! Buy following these key social skills for business, everything will be all right.

Read on for Part 2 of out article on the art of business networking.

Choose the right group to join

Always try to approach groups of an odd number of people, e.g. three to five. Pick up the thread on the conversation and when you make your move, make sure you say something of value that contributes to the conversation while continuing the thread. Avoid controversial statements and topics such as politics, religion or health. Keep things light-hearted and on subjects to which everyone can relate – travel, hobbies, food, the arts.

Spend your time wisely

While you need to give your undivided attention to someone when you are speaking to them, you should at the same time avoid spending the whole event in one person’s company. The idea is to mingle, so practise how to make a smooth exit while still being polite – the other person should not take offense as he or she is, after all, also there to mingle. A good way is to summarise your understanding of their business, mention how you can benefit each other’s business, exchange business cards and express how much you are looking forward to getting in touch with them later on.

Make notes and set reminders

After the event is over, make sure you jot down any notes you need to remember who was whom and how you connected with them. Writes notes on the back of business cards to remind you what you spoke about, and how and why you would like to stay in touch in future.

Keep in touch

Once you get back to the office, use the notes and reminders you scribbled down to reach out to your new business contacts with a personal note. This will help them to remember you and why and how you connected. Follow up on your conversations by adding the people you met and with whom you connected to social media networking sites such as LinkedIn, or send them an email. Do this even if you don’t have an immediate opportunity to work together in mind – the contact can come in handy in future, so extending and maintaining the good rapport you had is crucial. Keep in regular contact and if you get the chance to help one of your new contacts – whether by doing them a favour, helping them out in some way or introducing them to one of your other contacts of whom they might have a need – do so; it’s a good way to build trust and maintain good relations.

Now that you have some golden tips on the art of business networking under the belt, walking into a crowded room full of strangers need not be problem anymore. See business events for what they are – a perfect opportunity to meet and greet people who can help you as much as you can help them; people who are kindred spirits in that they are there for the same reason you are – to network and build connections in order to better their businesses.

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