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8 tips for more efficient business networking offline

Business networking offline is more nuanced than on the web, and many waste a considerable amount of effort at networking events – here’s how to make good use of your time and make better connections.

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Becoming more efficient at business networking

Most of us go to networking events with an end goal in mind, which is to expand our network and look for referrals for our businesses. As my businesses grow, I’ve found unique challenges that commonly arise at networking events and here are some helpful tips so that you can learn to be more efficient and effective with networking and referrals.

1. Have a business card on you at all times.

You never know when a business opportunity may arise. There was a time where I was attending a conference called SIGGRAPH in San Diego, CA and I found myself sitting next to the President of a World Wide Organization on a Charter bus. Opportunities happen all the time, not just at networking conferences. Make sure you have a business card on you.

We aren’t at the digital age yet where exchanging contact info through our phones is common place, so make sure to bring some way to capture their contact information quickly as well as a way for you to give a potential contact your info or else you may never see that contact again.

2. Develop a plan of what you want to accomplish the day before an event.

Develop a short mission statement for yourself containing details about what you want to accomplish at your networking event. Also figure out why do you want to accomplish this and what you can do to accomplish this goal. Then write down three things you want to accomplish at your event that will make it a successful event for you.

When you go to an event, focus on completing one objective at a time starting out with the highest priority networking goal. For example, if you are looking for funding, when you arrive, you will need find out where Venture Captialists are networking and stay in that area until you’ve met all of them that you can. After that, you can move to your other objectives for the evening.

3. Research all aspects of the event you’re attending beforehand.

Research where the networking event is if you haven’t been there before. Knowing where the venue is can help you arrive on time and plan for traffic and parking ahead of time. Often times, there are public RSVP lists to these events where you can see who is attending and what their backgrounds are.

Make sure to seek out these lists if they are available and make a list of people you must talk to before attending the event. Researching the networking event’s history can also make you appear knowledgeable and it can even make you the ‘go to’ person or experienced networker in certain situations.

4. Bring your marketing and presentation materials with you.

Always bring at very least, a pen, a permanent marker, and something to write on. One thing that happens to me quite often when I’m networking is I will hand someone my glossy double-sided business card, I will say something meaningful to my new networking contact, and they are unable to write a note to themselves on my business card. If you bring extra pens and the right kind of pens, your new contact will be impressed by your thoughtfulness and will be able to write down valuable information immediately about you.

If you have a manufacturing based business, bring a prototype. If your prototype is too large, then keep an image with you on your smart phone. Remember to keep your phone charged and bring backup batteries if needed. Put videos of your product or service on your phone so you can show people what you do quickly. All of your presentation materials assist people to understand what you do and what you need from them quickly. Remember that not everyone learns primarily by hearing what you have to say, you have people that learn by visual or tactile queues or a combination. So it’s best to prepare a quick pitch about what you do, tell them about it, show them what it is, then leave them with something tactile behind so that you’re catering to all of their senses.

5. Dress for the people you want to attract.

Austin, for example, can be pretty laid back so sometimes it’s usual to wear a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops when you’re at a business networking event. Just remember that if your goal is to network with and hang around people in suits all evening, you should be wearing similar clothing as those people you want to attract. Doing this will make them feel more comfortable around you.

6. Know how to speed network like a pro.

When networking, I usually come into a group of people, say hi, and let the group finish their discussion before I start leading the conversation to ‘So what do you do? Why are you here?’ After I’ve spoken with the person for some time to discover how I can help them or add value to their business, I ask them based on what they know about me so far, how they feel they could add value to my business. It’s a tricky art, because although it is reasonable to offer solutions to their problems, it cannot feel contrived – legitimately find ways to connect them with others or solve their pain points, and explore whether or not they have a value to offer in return (they may or may not).

If I figure out that there is no synergy, I will excuse myself from the conversation and leave the group. You should learn to politely excuse yourself from conversations quickly so that you can maximize the limited time you have to network.

I usually have a sorting system at any networking event that gives me an ability to quickly file contacts according to how relevant they are to my business. If I get a great and useful contact, I put my new networking contact’s business card in my front left pocket. If I have no immediately apparent use for a new contact’s business card, their card goes in my back pocket. When I get home, I have all my high priority contacts already sorted.

If you find someone that you have synergy with, get their contact info and schedule a future based physical meet up with them. Setting a date in the future to meet up shows to your new contact that they are important to you. In-person meetings usually have a higher sales closing rate and can create a greater sense of connection between yourself and your new contact than just connecting over LinkedIn or email after an event.

7. Follow up.

So by the end of the night, I usually come home with more business cards than I can count. From my experience, you have about 48 hours to reach out to these contacts you just met or else they may forget that they ever met you. So make sure to sort through all of your most important connections and leads for your business and contact those first. I recommend connecting with all of your new connections on LinkedIn.

If you don’t have the time to follow up with all of these people yourself, outsource it to your assistant, family members, intern, or anyone else you feel you trust with this task.

8. File your contacts properly.

A lot of people I know don’t keep an archive of all of their contacts. You never know the day that one of your previously less useful contacts may become exactly what you need in the future. I usually assign a keyword or phrase to all my “useless” contacts and put all of that data into one master spreadsheet (or you can do so in your CRM). That way in the future, I can search for resources if I ever need something in the future. Having this system ensures you will almost never have a crisis when you are looking for resources on demand.

Matthew Winters is the owner of Austin Visuals 3D Animation Studio , a Full-Service 2D & 3D animation studio, advertising agency, and video production studio. As one of Austin's movers and shakers, he also founded Speed Friending Events which produces networking mixers and social events in over 14 cities nationally. Matthew is dedicated to providing solutions to social and technology related issues in the industry.

Business News

Removing remote work options creates a new caste system

(BUSINESS) Remote work has created a democratization of sorts in the workforce, and companies desperate to nix the options could take a hit.

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Many companies are mandating a return to the office after over a year of allowing employees to work remotely, and, according to a recent study, over half of workers surveyed say they won’t stand for it. As remote work becomes more normalized for all levels of employment, it is crucial that employers retain the option for employees to work in this capacity wherever possible – even if it means employing nontraditional methods.

Harvard Business Review references something called “the democratizing effect of remote work” – the great equalizing that took place during stay-at-home orders nationwide.

In short, this philosophy entails workers having their needs met while continuing to fulfill their contracts of employment. Theoretically, this is a win-win situation.

But employers have their own predilections toward in-house operations, with remote flexibility often being reserved for the highest-ranking officials while “lower” employees are expected to commute. It’s a business model with which we’re exceptionally familiar; why change?

The answer to that question may be employee-driven, as many employees cite a preference for hybrid or remote work environments post-pandemic. “Employees are leaving workplaces that don’t suit their needs anymore,” cites HBR.

Many of those needs are emotional, too. Non-white employees and female employees face a higher level of discrimination in the workplace than their white and/or male counterparts; Black employees, in particular, reported stressful work conditions, with HBR citing that only three percent of Black employees demonstrated an interest in returning to an in-office environment (as opposed to 21 percent of white employees).

Allowing stressed and oppressed employees to work from home can improve their mental health, stress levels, and even their “feelings of belonging at their organization” in the case of Black employees.

Outside of race and gender, the publication also stresses the negative effects that mandating a return after allowing for remote work will have: “Creating a new caste system where elites have anywhere jobs and non-elites are shackled to the office full time is a recipe for high attrition among employees who often have a lot of firm-specific knowledge that is valuable to their employers.”

The less-subtle breakdown is this: If companies that are capable of offering remote work want to retain employees, they need to offer some remote options.

We saw the effects of employees in frontline occupations refusing to show up to work because of poor wages and working conditions earlier this year. It isn’t outside of the realm of feasibility to expect the next major workforce shortage to impact corporations as well.

If the solution is as simple as letting employees work from home a few days per week or permanently (especially if their productivity doesn’t suffer), that’s a pretty small price to pay for continued prosperity.

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Business News

The case for nixing your company happy hour forever

(BUSINESS) Happy hour is designed to bond teams and offer a perk, but the design is outdated to benefit few workers – let’s just get rid of the practice.

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The world of work has forever changed from the pandemic. Melinda Gates hopes that COVID-19 makes society get serious about gender equality. Some people are wondering how many people really want to return to the office at all. There are questions about providing customer service, not to reduce costs to the business, but because shoppers don’t want help in the store.

Let’s tackle another tradition in the office – the happy hour. Wondering if employees really want happy hours? Do they even help?

Why do we even have happy hour?

Happy hour is a tradition that dates back to the early 20th century and the United States Navy. It was originally a weekly entertainment created to alleviate boredom on the U.S.S. Arkansas when sailors were at sea. The practice became popular in the Navy, but over time, the emphasis changed from entertainment to drinking. As drinking became less stigmatized after prohibition, employees began drinking at work and after work. Although happy hours declined in the 1970s and beyond, there was a resurgence in the 2000s.

Why do offices hold happy hour?

Hosting a happy hour is thought to help a team develop positive relationships and encourage employee engagement and productivity. Drink o’clock can be a time of celebration to help employees feel good about the work they’re doing.

Employees can interact with each other outside of the stress of work. It sounds pretty innocent, just getting together at the end of the workday at a local pub or bar, but it comes with a lot of issues.

Is it time to nix the work happy hour?

Happy hour can come with a lot of pressure for employees. Some people believe they have to attend in order to keep moving up in the job, because skipping out can be seen as not being a team player, and many who don’t show up to the “optional” happy hours are also the ones who didn’t get to schmooze with the bosses and thereby are not the ones who get promotions.

This disproportionately hurts women, who typically still have the majority of caregiving tasks in the family and can’t stay out drinking on weeknights.

Transportation issues or flexible schedules don’t lend themselves well to the traditional happy hour after work. And don’t forget the drinking atmosphere doesn’t appeal to everyone. There are many religious, cultural, and personal reasons for people to avoid alcohol, bars, and happy hour functions.

This doesn’t even scratch the surface of liability issues for employers. Can your business risk an accident by an employee who went to happy hour and was a little buzzed when they left?

While we’re rethinking workplace traditions in the post-pandemic era, let’s think about how to get employees engaged. Maybe this outdated practice isn’t the best way to build your team anymore.

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Business News

You absolutely don’t need to be a 100% match for a job to apply

(CAREER) Most people believe they should only apply for their dream job if they’re a perfect match, but studies say that’s the wrong approach.

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apply for a job even if not 100% a match

You don’t need to be a 100 percent match for a job to apply. You just don’t.

We’ve all seen the crazy job postings:

-Must be fluent in Mandarin
-Must be be full-stack coder
-Must also have real estate license
-Must be a rockstar ninja (uuugh)

After seeing endless open positions with specific requirements, it’s no wonder that so many job seekers become discouraged. How can anyone fit 100 percent of the requirements on the job listing? And actually, most people don’t. According to a recent study, you only need to meet ~70 percent of the job requirements to be a good fit for a job.

So you’re telling me a requirement isn’t actually a requirement?!

The study analyzed job postings and resumes for over 6,000 positions across 118 industries, and they found that applicants are just as likely to get an interview whether you meet 50 percent or 90 percent of the requirements.

Crazy, I know. That law of diminishing returns will eff you up.

But what about women? I wondered the same thing. Surprisingly, the interview data was in favor of women that meet less of the requirements. In fact, the study shows that as a female, the likelihood of getting an interview increases if you simply meet 30 percent of the requirements. Also, female applicants are just as likely to get an interview if they meet 40 percent versus 90 percent of the job requirements.

Before you start complaining that women have it better in the job search process, correlation doesn’t equal causation.

Interestingly enough, 64 percent of the female users rejected at least one job where they matched 50 – 60 percent of the requirements, while only 37 percent of male users did. This leads us to believe there more implicit factors to take into consideration, like imposter syndrome throughout the interview process.

If you’re a recruiter or employer, this may seem like more work. But in an increasingly competitive job market for both employers and applicants, this presents an opportunity to get to know people for who they actually are, not just on paper. And resumes often do a poor job of reflecting that — especially the ever-important soft skills.

Key takeaways:

As we’ve gone through this study, here are a few practical action items for job seekers:

1. Apply for a lot of jobs to increase your number of interviews.

The study shows that increased interviews are a direct result of increased applications, not just picking and choosing what you think you’re a good fit for. Which brings us to our next point:

2. Go for those “stretch” roles — you never know what may come of it!

Send in a lot of applications, but don’t let that stop you from approaching the process thoughtfully. Recruiters can tell if you’ve skimped on the cover letter or your resume, and a thoughtful approach to the application process will be noticed and appreciated by recruiters, especially for those reach roles.

3. Don’t second-guess yourself.

We’re always our own worst critics, and according to this, we don’t need to be — especially throughout the job application process. Job hunting is stressful enough, so put on your most upbeat playlist (or Beyonce), say your affirmations, and go on with your bad self and start applying!

This story was first published here in December 2018.

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