Have no fear

Very few people love to network. Putting yourself out there is the first step to creating a valuable professional network. Go to Meetups, local tech events and Demo Days to get exposure to new potential contacts. Talk to people who seem nervous or lost in the crowd, they will be relieved that you did and you never know who you might meet. Be sure to ask for business cards when you think a follow up will be helpful.

Ask about them first

Before you launch in to your pitch, be sure you have invested yourself in the conversation. Ask questions about what the other person does, and listen to their answers. Be authentic in your interactions, and remember that networking is a two way street.

Keep it short and sweet

If you can’t explain your idea/startup/company in 2 minutes or less, you’re going to lose your new contact in the details. Keep your pitch short; sweet, and interesting, like this tip.

Tailor your content

Adjust how you explain your venture to meet the needs of your audience. Have a few variations of your pitch prepared in advance, and practice on family and friends as often as possible. If you are talking to a developer, chat about your tech. If your contact is in business development, talk about partnership opportunities. If you happen to get the chance to chat with an investor, make the value of your venture apparent.

Pay Attention to Nonverbal Cues

Say you are mid-pitch, but you notice your contact keeps glancing over at the bar. Do you attempt to bulldoze them through the remaining minute of your pitch? No!  You ask if they’d like to get a drink. Assess the needs of your contact, and adjust your behavior accordingly. Reading nonverbal behavior will allow you to know when it is appropriate to keep chatting, and when a graceful exit is necessary.

Follow up

An easy, simple piece of advice that very few entrepreneurs take the time to do. The morning after an event, pull out the business cards you collected, and send off personalized “it was great to meet you!” emails to each of you new contacts. This will solidify your relationship, and open the door for future connection.

Sarah Stockdale is the Businesses Development Specialist at Wave Accounting in Toronto, and speaks regularly on a variety of topics related to professional communication. For more information you can find her on Twitter at @skstock, or send her an email at sstockdale@waveaccounting.com.