Great meeting you at last night’s business networking event? Do you sometimes wonder if the time you spend business networking is worth it? Are you getting business from it? Are you building strong strategic partnerships from your business networking?

Maybe you are still making it a contest of how many people you can talk to and how many business cards you can collect. Perhaps you engage in a common practice of talking to the people you already know at business networking events. Or maybe you are just not that extroverted and find it difficult to deal with a room full of business people. Successful business networking takes time and practice. It can bring a huge benefit to your business in the way of new clients/customers and strategic partners.

Some tips to make it easier:

  • Smile and enjoy yourself. Have a good time. If you are truly not in the mood to talk with people then don’t go.
  • Don’t drink too much. There are several logical reasons for this but sometimes after a long day and free drinks it is tempting to have one too many. If you’re like me, one is sufficient especially on an empty stomach.
  • If you are wearing a suit jacket (men and women) put your business cards in one pocket and the cards you get in the other. I don’t know how many times I went to give someone my business card and it was the card that someone had just given me. If I don’t have pockets (and I usually do not) I have two different sections in my pocketbook.
  • If the business networking organizers are doing a business card raffle, ask if you can supply a prize. Have the prize relate to what you do if you can. I will often give away a LinkedIn Profile Optimization.
  • Wear your name badge on the right hand side. When you shake someone’s hand they will be associating your name with your face.
  • Tag team networking – go with a friend, colleague or co-worker and let them talk about what you do. That can be easier than talking about yourself.
  • Pick a couple of networking events that you enjoy and do them consistently. Getting to know and be known is better than flitting all over the place without building relationships anywhere. Some people business network at every event and that may work for them but I prefer to pick a couple I enjoy and stick with those. Otherwise it can get to be exhausting.
  • Always ask questions first. You want to give before you get. Ask people what they do, how they market and who are good strategic partners for them. If you can make an introduction to someone in the room that would be a good strategic partner for them, do it. If you know of people you can introduce them to later make sure to follow up and deliver.
  • Start a conversation with a compliment, “That’s a nice tie or I love that dress” be genuine and learn to accept a compliment gracefully – this has always been a tough one for me. My immediate reaction is something like “oh this old thing”. Just say thank you.
  • If you have asked someone about their business and what they need and they are not reciprocating simply excuse yourself to use the restroom or the “excuse me, I see someone on the other side of the room I need to speak with” ploy. Don’t waste time with people who just want to take or who really just want to hear themselves talk. As you business network more, you’ll begin to recognize them right away.
  • Connect with the people you have had a conversation with – ask people how they like to be communicated with; LinkedIn, Facebook, email, text, phone call
  • No the handwritten note is not dead and it is still very much appreciated, however, it does usually take 2-3 days to get there so you might send those to people you really want to thank for something. If time is of the essence and these days we all have such short attention spans, I would send an email or social media note after a business networking event to those you want to further connect with.

Remember its not about how many two minute conversations you can have or how many business cards you give out or collect. It’s about having a few good quality conversations. Sometimes after talking with someone you realize there isn’t a real connection and that’s okay. The more quality conversations you have with the object of helping someone else first, the more success you will have in helping your business grow through business networking. People like to reciprocate.

What are the best places to business network? We’ll address that next time.

This article was originally published here.