Too few businesspeople master the very useful art of business mingling, especially Swedes. So I started to write this check list after my time in the US 1999-2000, where I attended numerous business mingling events in IT and venture capital. Since then I have sharpened the list with my experiences of what works best in Sweden and Europe.
1. Business cards
Bring a stack of business cards and a pen. Far too many people attend events without their business cards! Keep the cards within easy reach. Make sure your business card tells your story, ideally put your picture on it, since you want to be remembered.
Realize that networking is long-term, don’t expect immediate results. You will get the most out of it if you offer your help, your experiences and your contacts without demanding anything back, “Give to Gain”.
It is about relations and not about transactions, i.e. you should plant seeds and not be on a hunt!
3. The starting phase
Start directly by approaching the person closest to you, no matter how he or she looks, don’t hesitate! But respect the other person by not standing too close, many people are intimidated by that.
Tip: Avoid those that you already know, tell them that you will talk to them later. You are there to make new contacts!
4. The introductory phase
Don’t start by telling all about what you can do, it is not your goal here, (and nobody really cares either). Instead you want to find out as much as possible about the other person, what he or she does, what are the interests etc, and you want to steer the conversation by asking questions.
So start instead by showing your interest in the other person. For example: “Hello, what did you think of the panel discussion?”, or ”Hello, how do you feel about this event?”
Do not ask a question that can be answered with just yes or no!
Listen to the other person, show your full attention, then he or she will soon also be interested in you and ask what you do, which is your goal.
5. Your elevator pitch
As soon as you are asked ”what do you do”, you use your elevator pitch. It should be brief, under 10 seconds, and answer three questions:
1. What do you do?
2. Whom do you do it for?
3. What benefits does it give your customers?
(See my elevator pitch checklist)
6. The decision phase
When the other person has showed you interest and you have acquired some information, it is time to decide if this is a contact that you want to move further with or not.
7. The comprehensive phase
If you want to proceed, say ”It would be interesting to have lunch with you and get to know more about your business. Can I have your business card to call you and set up a suitable time?” Your goal is to exchange cards and get permission to call.
Tip: Immediately make a note on the card about what was interesting and when and where you met the person. Another way, if you cannot write on the card, is to fold the upper left corner = “Hot prospect”, or the upper right corner = “Indirect contact”, or the lower right corner = “No contact”.
If you do not want to proceed with this person, just say ”OK, it was nice to meet you. Here is my card, can I have yours?” Exchange cards and then move to another person in the room.
9. Indirect contacts
Every person knows hundreds of people. The person that you are talking to is perhaps not directly interesting to you, but might have other good contacts. Therefore you should exchange business cards with everybody that you meet, and ask if they know somebody that might be interested in you and your business.
10. Time allocation
Never spend more than 4-5 minutes per person. Even if it is a very interesting contact, you can miss other even more interesting people if you linger with the same person too long. This is a very common mistake! Remember, your goal is to set up a later meeting with your new contact.
11. The follow up phase
Save and catalogue all the business cards. Tip: there are many mobila apps that allows you to take a picture of the business card and store it as searchable text, this is very convenient.
For those that you want to see again, send within two days some information about you and your business along with a suggested meeting time.
You can also send a “nice to meet you”-mail to the other contacts, where you include your elevator pitch and a link to your home page. Don’t sell anything, just ask if there is any way that you can be of help.Download a printable PDF Business mingling checklist (English version) Checklista för affärsmingling (Swedish version)