Before the meeting do your research, many regions will have multiple chambers which may overlap in your business area. The members in your local chamber are businesspeople just like you, getting their name and service/product out, but in a social atmosphere. Why are they doing this? Because people prefer to give business to and work with, those they know personally.
Search the chambers near your business area. Look at the membership list as you might know people in the organization. Call them and ask about the activity at the meetings and their overall level of satisfaction, ask what the atmosphere is like and how often they frequent the events. If they attend monthly events, ask if you can come with them as a guest.
If you don’t know anyone, look at the events/meetings schedule. Then call the chamber, introduce yourself an ask if you can attend as a guest.
During the meeting: keep it light once you are at the event, if the person with whom you spoke is not at the registration table, ask to be directed toward that person. This person will be your key contact for the evening and will introduce you to the chamber’s ambassadors. Ambassadors are members who volunteer their time to work with new and prospective members. They will help ease you into the room and will begin to introduce you to some of the more active members.
As you begin your introductions, be sure to have plenty of business cards with you. There is no need to bring other materials along: save that for another time or more personal one-on-one meeting.
First, you want to get an idea of who normally attends and then get to know them. Keep the conversation light, ask those you are meeting about themselves, their business, and how long they have been members of the chamber. When asked about your business, keep it casual and interesting. This is not the time to sell; this is simply the time to let them know a little more about you and what you do.
Work the room. Chamber events have a mix of people, but not all are decision-makers. Most attendees are business and salespeople looking for another customer. A few are just there for the free food and drinks. Only a few are there to really grow their business. As a business owner, I go to share my business with other local and new businesses and to learn about theirs. After you have attended several of these meetings, you will start to notice several groups that stick together. Try to quickly identify the decision-makers that can choose you as a vendor or supplier. To do this, you must chat with every group. Spend a moment to study each business card you receive and ask a few questions about the business and what the role this individual plays there. Make a point to speak with at least 20 people during the event, without fail.
At their end of the evening, remember to thank the people who represent the Chamber and the Ambassadors for the opportunity to attend. If you are not yet a member, discuss joining with one of the chamber representatives, be sure you know about the benefits so that you can make an educated decision.
After the Meeting: follow up best practices. The following day take a few minutes to email those you met. You now have their contact to add to your email list, and by sending them an email, you’ll have added your name to their email list as well. If you sell a product or service, mention it in the email and let them know that you’ll call them In a few days to see how you can best work together, Keep in mind, a business will not bloom overnight: networking and crafting relationships takes time. You need to continue to attend the events to become familiar with the members
Don’t forget to dress for success, and this is a business event! Be sure you are properly attired; your first impression is a lasting one.
7 Tips for networking
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- Resist the urge to arrive late. It’s almost counter-intuitive, but showing up early at a networking event is a much better strategy than getting there on the later side. As a first attendee. You’ll notice that its calmer and quieter and people won’t have settled into groups yet, it’s easier to find other people who don’t have conversations partners yet.
- Ask easy questions. Don’t wait around the edges of the room, waiting for someone to approach you. To get the conversation started, simply walk up to a person or a group and say, “May I join you,” or “What brings you to this event?” Don’t forget to listen intently to their replies. If you’re not a natural extrovert, you’re probably a very good listener, and listening can be an excellent way to get to know a person.
- Ditch the sales pitch. Remember, networking is all about relationships building. Keep your exchange fun, light, and informal- you don’t need to do the hard sell within minutes of meeting a person. The idea is to get the conversion started. People are more apt to do business with or partner with people whose company they enjoy. If a potential customer does ask you about your product or service, be ready with an easy description of your company. Before the event, create a mental list of recent accomplishments, such as a new client you’ve landed or project you’ve completed. That way you can easily pull an item off the list and into the conversation.
- Share your passion. Win people over with your enthusiasm for your product or service. Leave a lasting impression by telling a story about why you were inspired to create your company. Talking about what you enjoy is often contagious. When you get people to share their passions, it creates a memorable two-way conversation.
- It’s a simple but often overlooked rule of engagement. By smiling, you’ll put your nervous self at ease., and you’ll also come across as warm and inviting to others. Remember to smile before you enter the room, or before you start your next conversation. And if you’re really dreading the event? Check the negative attitude at the door
- Don’t hijack the conversation. Some people who dislike networking may overcompensate by commandeering the discussion. Don’t forget the most successful networkers (think of those you met) are good at making other people feel special. Look people in the eye, repeat their name, listen to what they have to say, and suggest topics that are easy to discuss. Be a conversationalist, not a talker.
- Remember to follow up. It’s often said that networking is where your conversation begins, not ends. If you had a great exchange, ask your conversation partner the best way to stay in touch., Some people like email or phone, others prefer social networks like LinkedIn. Get in touch within 48 hours of the event to show you’re interested and available and reference something you discussed, so your contact remembers you.
The 20 Best Networking Questions to Ask
Communication experts agree that questions are a great way to build rapport and demonstrate an interest in others while also gathering important information. Networking events are the perfect time to stretch your questioning skills. By asking a few thoughtful networking questions, you can learn a lot about the person in front of you, their field, and their organization.
If you’re ever mingling with a group of professionals and find yourself a loss for conversations, ask one of the top 20 networking questions listed below.
“Getting to know them” networking questions:
- What do you do?
- How long have you been doing it?
- How do you like it?
- How did you get involved in it?
- What kind of projects are you working on right now?
- What’s your favorite part of the job?
- What do you do outside of work?
“Getting to know their field” networking questions:
- What kind of education/experience do you need to get into this field?
- What do you think the most important skills are for success in this field?
- What other networking groups or professional development activities do you participate in?
- What changes have you seen in your field in the past few years?
- Where do you use this field going in the future?
“Getting to know their organization” networking questions:
- How long have you been with your company?
- What’s the culture like?
- What makes your organization stand out amongst the competition?
- Where is your organization headed in the next few years?
- What are the biggest challenges facing your organization?
“Wrap Up” networking questions:
- What’s next for you and your career?
- How can I help you meet your goals?
- Would you like to keep in touch?
Of course, asking the questions is only part of the equation for successful networking. After that, you have to listen to the answer! Smile, nod, and make eye contact to demonstrate your interest. Ask follow-up questions to dig deeper but remember that too many questions back to back can start to feel like an interrogation. So be sure to share your experience as well. Making conversations while networking can be challenging, but with the help of these networking questions, you’ll be a natural in no time.