It might sound like an old fashioned way to do business in the digital era, but networking remains one of the most cost effective marketing methods available to us all.

It enables you to market both yourself and the business you represent, which is why it’s such a powerful tool to have at your disposal.

If you’ve tried networking in the past but have felt like it’s simply a waste of time, you may not have approached it in the right way.  In this post, we’ve picked out five business networking tips that will help you see the light.

Group of business people chatting in front of a window.

1. Pick the right event

Networking events come in many different shapes and sizes.

Some will be industry specific, while others will be focused geographically. You might even find a few that are simply generic business get-togethers designed for anyone, no matter the industry they represent or where they’re based.

Not every event will be right for you, so make sure you do your homework and pick the most appropriate one. For instance, do you need to meet people within your industry or spread your wings a little wider?

Casually dressed business man shaking hands with a colleague.

2. Take business cards

Just because you’re on LinkedIn doesn’t mean you should avoid taking the more traditional forms of contact with you to networking events.

People still value business cards as a method by which to get in touch and remember encounters, therefore if you find yourself without any in your pocket, how will people remember to connect with you after the event?

A businesswoman greeting a new colleague.

3. Spend more time with people you don’t know

There’s a good chance you’ll run into people you know at a networking event, particularly if it’s industry-specific.

A classic mistake in this scenario is to spend too much time with the people you know. And, when you think about it, that’s a serious waste of time; you can speak to these people whenever you need to.

That doesn’t mean ignoring critical partners or customers (you can still give them the time of day), but instead focus 90% of your time on talking to people you’ve never met before.

Two colleagues having a meeting using a laptop.

4. Don’t treat it as a sales pitch

Traditional sales techniques don’t work at networking events. That isn’t why you’re there, and it’s not what the people you meet expect to be faced with.

Treat the event as a gathering where everyone will have equal opportunity to tell their story and, most importantly, ask questions.

This is where the 80/20 rule comes into play; ask questions and listen – don’t use the day as a pedestal from which to sell yourself and your company.

Two businessmen deep in conversation.

5. Don’t get locked into conversation for too long

Time is of the essence at business networking events.

Even if it lasts a day or two, you’ve only got a limited time to speak to as many people as possible.

You can do this by going prepared with questions that will unearth the most valuable information for you and ensuring that you politely exit any conversations that aren’t offering value.

It might sound a little cold, but remember – this is business.

Wrapping up

It’s important to think of business networking as a process, rather than a one-off event.

Most people who represent value to your company will be looking for connections, and there are few better ways to develop them than this.