By: Sam Brown and Fiona Bond
If you’re in the business world here in Waco, you’ve likely seen how many networking opportunities occur each month. It seems like there is an event every day! Whether you are actively attending these events or not, learning how to effectively network should be at the top of your list.
Let’s begin at the top: what is networking? By definition, networking is the exchange of information and ideas among people with a common profession or interest in an informal setting.
Networking serves two basic purposes:
- to meet new people and get to know them and
- to allow people an opportunity to get to know you.
While it’s often the case that the people you want to meet are those who can help develop opportunities for your business (i.e. customers, vendors, partners, investors) but you can’t make that the only purpose for why you are meeting new people. If advancing yourself or your business is your only objective, it is very easy to come off as insincere. The bottom line is that people do not like to be manipulated and they will sense insincerity quickly.
There must be a true desire to invest in a relationship with someone before there will ever be an opportunity to develop professionally. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
That is a quote to live by when it comes to networking. Here are our best tips and tricks on how to make meaningful (and genuine) connections through networking:
- Always wear branded clothing or a nametag. This will give a visual indicator of who you are, where you work, and will make you more memorable. It’s always a good conversation starter, too!
- Don’t just talk about who you are, what you do, or how you can help. If you’re going to cut right to the chase of what you’re needing/wanting to provide professionally, call and set an appointment. You have just created a business meeting. That is not the only purpose of creating a networking opportunity!
- Always ask the person about themselves first. People love to talk about themselves, their interests, business and family. By asking these questions, you are able to find more personal links and common subjects. People always appreciate a genuine attempt at getting to know them. If they ask you about yourself, give them just enough information to get an idea, but use it as an opportunity to set up a coffee or lunch gathering.
- Don’t wait for a networking event to go out and network. You can network any time and any place! Many of the deals or partnerships we’ve formed have fallen into our laps during unplanned conversations in casual social settings. It often takes you getting out of your comfort zone, but you never know who you will meet!
In Waco alone, there are dozens of planned networking events each month. These events are a great launch pad for relationships of all kinds. If you are new to networking or don’t feel completely comfortable doing it, we strongly encourage you to test out your new skills at one of them.
Here are some of the best resources:
- Start Up Waco/Hustle Co-working: Truly a hub for networking and continuing education for the small business/entrepreneurship industry.
- Local Chambers: Waco and Hewitt have very active city Chambers of Commerce. Waco Chamber’s Power Hours are great events with a wide range of industries present. They also host monthly roundtables called 1000 Friends of Waco that we highly recommend. The Cen-Tex African American Chamber and Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber have awesome and unique events as well.
- 1MillionCups Waco: 1MC is a weekly Wednesday morning presentation at Hustle Co-working. It is the perfect mix of a casual social event and an informative business presentation. Each week a start-up business owner gives a 6-minute presentation on their company with plenty of opportunities to mingle. Bonus perk: free coffee!
Information about Bank & Brews
In partnership with Start Up Waco, Bank & Brews is designed for anybody who wants to learn more about starting or growing a business! These monthly events are free and hosted at Hustle Co-working space. Visit Extraco’s Facebook page to learn more about upcoming Bank & Brews!
About Extraco Banks®
Extraco Banks and its affiliate companies are dedicated to building people, businesses and communities. Since the Great Recession, Extraco has extended over $2.5 billion in loans to 25,000 customers, while financially supporting over 1,275 community organizations working to create economic vibrancy, job growth and overall quality of life to our communities across central Texas. Founded as a cotton warehousing company, Extraco, at $1.5 billion in assets, is the largest and most comprehensive locally owned bank between Dallas and Austin, serving over 120,000 customers’ banking, mortgage, insurance and wealth & trust needs with creative and innovative excellence. Learn more at: https://www.extracobanks.com/.