Though initially scary, business networking is a great way to expand your knowledge as well as your social circle. Networking not only allows you to learn from the success of others, but also attain new clients and tell others about your business. However, networking successfully can get tricky. The fear of meeting new people at big events can be daunting and scary. Not to mention, we often find ourselves stuck in awkward situations we somehow can’t get out of. If you’ve been desperately looking for a solution to your woes, you’re in luck. Here are 5 tips to ace your next business networking session.

1. Ask open ended questions

To get a conversation started, ask easy questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows potential partners that you are interested in them. An example of a great conversation starter is “ What brings you to this event?” or just a simple “May I join you?” is great too. Don’t forget to listen intently to their replies as well, you don’t want to be caught distracted while someone else is sharing.

2. Smile, always

This tip is rather simple – but often overlooked. The rule of engagement states that a big, warm smile is one of the most effective ways to leave an impression. Not only does it reflect your energy, attitude and self confidence, but it also radiates a fun and positive vibe. Be wary though, as our brain easily distinguishes a fake smile from a real one. Just be authentic and you’re good to go!

3. Just be yourself

As briefly mentioned earlier, credibility and authenticity is the building block of effective business networking. The fundamental truth of effective communication is that people will believe what you say if they believe in you. Hence, resist the urge to put up a facade and avoid the temptation to artificially act in a way that isn’t consistent with your everyday personality. At the end of the day, successful networking is a result of nothing more than honest interactions isn’t it?

4. Move on – politely

Some might say that initiating a conversation in a network session is the difficult part, however ending one can be equally as tough. When the time comes to wrap up the discussion, one handy way to make a graceful exit is by handing off your business card. This indicates to the other party that you’re ready to peruse the rest of the event. Alternatively, if you are genuinely interested in speaking with this person more, you can always suggest that both of you connect again later on in the evening.

5. Remember to follow up

Networking is a process, not a one-off event. Hence, always be proactive and take the time to develop relationships with people who interest you. If you’ve made a good connection with someone, ask your partner the best way to stay in touch. The rule of thumb is to get in touch within 48 hours as this shows that you are interested and available. When doing so, also make sure to reference something that was discussed just so that your contact remembers you.

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