The idea of walking into a business networking event or conference can be exciting and stressful. As the person responsible for developing strategic relationships between Red Thread and our Architecture, Design and Real Estate  partners, I well know the feeling! But I learned early on that by leveraging a few but important social skills for business these events can become fun and extremely valuable by helping you grow mind and market share.

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The Five Networking Basics:

1. Set realistic expectations.

Well before you arrive at the event set your expectations. You will not be able to meet all attendees, so knowing in advance who your key targets are and how they can impact your business will keep you focused and on task. Your goal should be making/connecting with a select number of meaningful contacts or prospects. Is not about the number, it is about the quality of the people you connect with at the event.

2. Understand how you add value.

You will be most successful if you become valuable resource for others. When you are known as a strong resource, people will remember you and will rely on you for suggestions. Always think about gaining mind share and looking for ways to become a team member.

3. Know who you are and what you do.

What you and your company does should roll off your tongue with ease. Yes, practice the elevator speech so you can do it in your sleep. But go one step further. You should be able to articulate how you can help others and be able to provide resources and thoughtful insight. Keep up on current trends and demonstrate your expertise when given the chance.

4. Be aware of the amount of time that you are dedicating to each person.

Don’t feel that you have to spend the whole event with a particular contact. At events it’s appropriate to cycle through several conversations keeping them succinct and high level. Be tactful, polite, and in control!

5. Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given.

Any contacts or referrals you make should be followed up within a day or two. This is not something that can be added to your TO DO list for later in the month.

With a couple of business-etiquette basics under your belt you can confidently master the art of networking and feel productive while enjoying the journey!