Face to Face Business Networking 101

Written by MediaMisfit

Social networking and online portfolios work to a certain degree but at some point in time you’ll have to crawl out from under your shy shell and start networking face to face. There is a certain element about a face to face relationship that creates a stronger bond between you and the people you network with. You’re no longer just a name on a screen or piece of paper. You’re a person with a face, a voice and a unique personality.

Basic Business Networking Techniques for Designers

Lesson 1: Where to Start

The reality is that you should ALWAYS be networking. You never know when mentioning being a graphic designer in a social setting will open up a new business opportunity. The places that you will have the greatest chance for honing your face to face networking skills are at focused event like conferences, art shows, and design specific networking meetings.

If there aren’t any of these events local to you then I suggest you make a trip to try and attend some in a larger city. The face to face connections you make will pay off in the long run and people will respect you for making the drive.

Lesson 2: What to Bring

The number one mistake that young designers make in networking is not having a business card on hand. Always try to carry a few business cards with you wherever you go. It is the single most important element of networking face to face seeing as it is the one thing about you that a person can take with them.

If you are attending a specific event where you know you will need more then try to carry an appropriate amount. I also suggest carrying a ballpoint pen so that you can write down notes on the business cards you collect to reference later.

Lesson 3: Making the Connection

If it is your first time at a specific networking event then don’t be shy. You are there to meet people and make connections and the only way your going to do that is by breaking the ice. Approach someone one on one and start off by asking a simple question. When they finish answering be sure to introduce yourself and offer them your business card while elaborating a bit more on what you do. This way you’ll be reinforcing the information on your business card verbally while they look at it.

Throughout the remainder of the conversation it is always good to connect with people on a casual level through simple questions like where they went to school or how long they have been with their company. It puts them at ease and helps the conversation go a lot smoother.

Lesson 4: Make sure to Mingle

Don’t feel obligated to talk to one person the whole time. Feel free to excuse yourself and mingle throughout the crowd. Meeting a greater number of people will help you take full advantage of the networking opportunity at hand by allowing you to meet as many people as possible.

Lesson 5: Follow-Up

After the face to face meeting is over it is always important to continue a valuable relationship through a follow-up e-mail. Try to reference the previous conversation of when you met. This might help jog their memory in case they don’t exactly remember speaking with you.

These 5 simple lessons should help get you started. Feel free to share any other tips you have found work when networking face to face in the comments below.

5 comments on “Face to Face Business Networking 101”

  1. David U. Reply

    Very informative. I agree fully. Its true that the biggest mistake is to not have a business card on hand. I’ve been in a few situations where I KNOW I could have landed a job (i work freelance film) if I’d only had my card on me.
    I went to http://www.cards29.com they offer 5000 business cards for $29 bucks which is amazing if you’ve shopped around. I designed them myself, simple, name, info and I’ve gotten tons of jobs with them. Definitely recommend that site.
    Also always do the follow up email. It works.

  2. Thoms Reply

    Nice article, Gino. David: That is a good price, but keep in mind that you’ll have to adverise for them. They demand a little piece of every card to advertise on. That dosen’t look profesional to me. (No offense though).

  3. MediaMisfit Reply

    I agree with Thoms in this case. 5000 business cards is a lot and a Cards29 logo on the back might look a bit tacky. Shell out the cash for a small stack of 250-500 to start off with. They will go a long way and plus in the case that your information changes you won’t but left with 3000 extra cards that are no good because of an old e-mail. :-X

    Another thing to point out is to have a good relationship with your printer (the person). Business cards aren’t a HUGE deal for them to make unless your doing some kind of raised thermography or something. You might be able to work something out where they print your cards as you need them at a smaller quantity in case your information changes.

  4. Gino Reply

    I would have to agree as well I would go with a card without advertisements on it =) Uprinting.com does a great job printing cards.

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