Networking is an essential part of your business strategy and it is so much more than just handing out business cards.

It is your opportunity to build new contacts, establish mutually beneficial relationships and create lasting friendships.

Does the idea of networking fill you with fear? Do you panic and talk nonstop about yourself?

Follow these easy tips and ensure you are creating a lasting positive impression.

Make each connection a positive one

You will enjoy building relationships more if you are genuinely interested in the people you meet. If you want the connection to be a positive one, you need to show the person you are interested in hearing about them.

Watch your body language and face the other person. Don’t spend your time scanning the room to see who else you could be talking too… you want them to know they have your undivided attention.

Subtly copy some of their mannerisms, for example, if they are sitting with their legs crossed, cross yours. Remember to smile too!

Ask the right questions

Remember to ask questions but ensure you aren’t just sticking to their professional life. Asking about their interests too may uncover some hidden gems and help build on the new friendship.

By asking questions you also get out of the bad habit of talking purely about yourself. It is also helpful to ask clarifying questions too… to show that you are actually listening and understanding what they are talking about.

Stay open minded

If you are only looking for connections that can improve or help your business, then you’re missing a trick. Don’t make assumptions – remember, you never know what random connections you will make … and who that person knows, so be genuinely interested in everyone you meet.

Don’t assume they hold no value to you, just because their business isn’t a direct fit with yours.

Do your homework

If you’re meeting a specific person or company, take the time to find out some information on them. Make their website your first port of call, as it will contain vital company information, personal bios and portfolios.

Depending on who you are meeting, you may also find information about them from their marketing material, newspapers and magazines. Check out social media profiles too, as you may find more information on those common interests you may share.

Being genuinely interested in other people is the key to better business. People will only work with people they like and, by following these simple tips, you will ensure your first connection is a positive one… and good business will naturally follow.

How open minded are you when networking with different people? Have you had a seemingly random connection… that turned into the best connection you ever had? Please share your thoughts and leave a comment below.