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6 In-Person Networking Tips for Entrepreneurs As an entrepreneur, networking isn't optional – it's part of your job. Here are some tips to help you make more meaningful connections.

By Kimberly Zhang

This story originally appeared on Under 30 CEO

The power of in-person networking remains extremely important, especially for entrepreneurs looking to build and grow their businesses. Meeting face-to-face provides a level of connection and trust that's hard to replicate online. But how can you make the most of these opportunities to ensure you're not just collecting business cards but actually building meaningful relationships?

How to Win at Networking

As an entrepreneur, networking isn't optional – it's part of your job. Your long-term success, while certainly dependent on numerous variables, will hinge on who you know (not necessarily what you know).

With that in mind, here are some suggestions to help you get better at networking:

1. Prepare Thoroughly Before the Event

Success in networking often starts long before you step into the venue. Preparation is key. Research the event and the types of professionals who will be attending. If possible, get a list of attendees or speakers and identify those you consider "must-meet" contacts. Understand their roles and their businesses, and think of how your services or products align with their needs.

Related: The 10 Commandments of Networking You Must Know to Build Authentic Connections

Be intentional about each networking event you attend and set clear objectives for what you want to achieve. For example, are you looking for potential clients, partners, or mentors? The specific types of contacts you're looking to make will dictate how you approach each event. (You're going to go about things differently if you're looking for a business partner than if you're trying to find clients.)

Having specific goals helps you stay focused and will allow you to measure the event's success afterward. Never go into an event blind or unprepared. While you can't plan or predict everything, you can give yourself a head start by going in with a strategy.

2. Craft a Memorable Elevator Pitch

Your elevator pitch is your quick, personal selling point – it's how you introduce yourself and your business to someone new. Craft a pitch that is concise, compelling, and tailored to your audience.

Make sure your pitch communicates who you are, what you do, and what makes your business unique or valuable to others. Practice it until it feels natural, ensuring you can deliver it confidently without coming off as rehearsed.

3. Make a Great First Impression

First impressions are crucial and often lasting.

  • Dress appropriately for the event to project professionalism. You don't want to come across as stuffy and uptight, but you do want to look put-together.
  • Pay attention to your body language: Offer a firm handshake, maintain eye contact, and smile. Non-verbal cues like these can communicate confidence and openness, making others much more receptive to your conversation.
  • Make sure you're genuinely interested in what others have to say – it's not just about you talking but also listening actively and engaging with their responses.

A solid first impression is one of the key driving factors in whether or not you'll have the ability to interact with this person again in the future.

4. Be Quick to Follow Up

Perhaps the most crucial step in networking is the follow-up. After the event, send a personalized email or LinkedIn message to each contact you made, ideally within 24 to 48 hours. Mention specific details from your conversation to jog their memory and express how you enjoyed meeting them.

If you'd like to speak with them again, propose a next step. Whether it's a coffee meeting, phone call, Zoom meeting, or sending additional information that they requested, this sort of follow-through is where a simple connection can morph into someone you consider a part of your network.

If you really want to make an impression, consider inviting them to a more intimate and personal setting (if appropriate). One option is to invite a small group of two or three people you met to your home for dinner. (Nobody else is going to do this, which makes you stand out.) This is where having a home that's designed for entertaining is helpful. A custom outdoor kitchen, for example, is great for casual networking in the spring and summer months. Likewise, having an open floor plan inside makes it easy to entertain while preparing meals.

5. Utilize Effective Conversation Starters

Breaking the ice can sometimes be the hardest part of networking. Prepare some open-ended questions in advance to get the conversation flowing. For example:

  • What brings you to this event?
  • What projects are you currently working on?
  • What does a typical day look like for you?
  • What's the most challenging part of your job?
  • What do you think the next 3-5 years hold for you?

These are simple yet effective ways to initiate dialogue and show genuine interest in others' activities. Avoid controversial topics and steer the conversation towards areas where you can find common professional ground or mutual interests.

6. Be Mindful of Time

While it's important to establish a connection, be mindful of the time you spend with each person. Networking events are opportunities to meet multiple people. If you find a conversation is going particularly well, suggest a follow-up meeting to discuss further rather than monopolizing someone's time at the event. (This can be really difficult to do – as your natural instincts tell you to keep the conversation going – but it shows respect for their time and allows you to learn more about them in a focused setting.)

Win With Networking

It's nearly impossible to be successful on your own. If you're operating in a silo, you miss out on so many opportunities to learn and benefit from others. This is where networking comes into play. It's one of the driving factors in entrepreneurial success. Use this article as a launching pad for bigger and better things!

Kimberly Zhang

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Chief Editor of Under30CEO

Kimberly Zhang, president and editor in chief of Under30CEO, has a passion for educating the next generation of leaders.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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