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Sniffing Out Opportunities

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Have you ever walked into an industry event, or even onto a tradeshow floor and thought, “What now? How can I navigate this? Who is most important to meet, and where are they? Do I know anyone?”

Or worse, you have negative chatter going through your mind such as: “I know no one! I am so out of place here! What was I thinking? I should turn around and go.”

Networking events can be fraught with angst for even well-connected, confident pet professionals.

Here are some tips to help you when you enter the jostling, generally jovial but many times confusing, arena of networking.

First: What is it you want to accomplish? For many it’s to meet new contacts; however what will you do then? Without a plan in place or a goal in mind the time you spend at social and industry events can be wasted.

Here are two goals, or intentions, that will help you. Set your mind on meeting at least two people you want to learn something about or from, and then have a couple of questions in mind that will engage and interest those you meet.

Second: Be a magnet. Networking goes both ways, and you’ll be more successful at it if you position yourself as someone interesting.
To draw people to you, wear color around your face. People are drawn to color, because it makes them feel good.
Wear a smile. This one thing is probably the best tip ever, yet its one most people forget to engage.

Third: Be prepared. Of course you have your business cards, and, if you’re really savvy, your own name badge to make it easy for others to see your name and identify your business.

However, when you secure a business card from another person, how are you going to remember who they were a month from now?
Here’s a tip that works for me. It’s proven especially valuable at trade shows and other events where I secure many business cards at one time, making it difficult to remember who is who, and what we discussed.

Get a small notebook, and prior to the event, put paperclips on about 10 of the pages. Slip a pen onto the notebook and have it ready in your pocket or purse. When you receive a business card, simply slip it under one of the paperclips and jot down a couple of points next to it in your notebook to help jog your memory later.

Place the cards in the order of who you met. Then, when you go through them later, it will be like   retracing your steps, which is another good memory tool.

Fourth: Doing all this is pointless if you don’t actually do post-event follow up. That’s why it’s often easier, and better, to meet a few people you really connect with instead of meeting hundreds who you soon forget.
When you plan your networking and your follow-up, you can plan on reaping the benefits.

Shawna Schuh is president and chief pet wrangler of Women in the Pet Industry Network, the only cross-category network for pet professionals to grow, give and connect for mutual benefit. You can reach her at Shawna@WomenInThePetIndustry.com or 503-970-5774 or www.WomenInThePetIndustry.com.

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