The next step in your networking efforts

Networking is the ultimate way to get to know other people in your industry and learn more about your customer base. However, it can be tough to determine exactly how to continue your efforts after that initial connection. Here are a few steps you can take in your networking efforts to ensure you're casting the widest net possible:

Prepare an elevator pitch
Networking won't be effective if you stumble over your words and fail to make a good impression. Prepare what you're going to say when someone asks what it is that you do or what you're looking to achieve. While you're well aware of what your business is and what your aspirations are, being asked this information right off the bat can be intimidating. Devise a casual, 45-second – give or take – pitch that encompasses the main points of your business. Having this memorized will make you sound prepared and professional.

"Keep in contact with your connections."

Don't leave it at the event
Networking events are incredibly useful, but if you leave all of your knowledge and newfound connections with your business cards and never follow up, you're throwing away opportunities. The most important part of forging relationships​ is to keep in contact with them.

Work It Daily suggests reaching out to your new connections every four to six weeks, whether you're sharing industry information with them or just asking how their new business venture is going. While adding someone new on LinkedIn is great, it's a passive action that won't garner anything substantial in the future if you don't foster the relationship. Regular contact also makes it seem less awkward if one of you has a favor to ask of the other in the future. You would never ask someone you hardly know for career advice, but questions like that will be genuine and natural with someone you've had multiple conversations with. 

Create friendships
Though you shouldn't go to a networking event with the intentions of making friends to go out with on the weekends, you should look to create genuine relationships with your connections. Desperation can be sensed a mile away, and keeping it too professional can come off as disingenuous. You shouldn't hesitate to make casual conversation about anything from pop culture to light details about your life. Don't get too in-depth, but you don't only have to talk about your business!

Once you've connected with people you've met at networking events, don't hesitate to propose meeting up for coffee. In a more casual setting, you'll get to know him or her better and you can determine how you can help each other out.

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