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It’s time for your yearly networking event and you’re getting nervous about being in a room filled with people you don’t know. What do you say? When should you pitch your speech? Should you shake their hand first or wait for them to offer their hand?

First, take a breath. Relax and know that many are just as nervous as you are. Remember you are first a person and then a business owner. If you keep in mind that this mixer is an opportunity to get to know people instead of getting your next sale then you will be much better off.

Try and balance speaking with listening and above all stay focused on your goal, which is to connect with people who can help you move your business forward.

Keep these 21 tips handy for your next event.

Be interested in the conversation – you will be bombarded by a number of people who will introduce themselves to you, hand you business cards and pitch their products – take time to concentrate on the conversation, don’t let your eyes glaze over with boredom.

Smile – sometimes when nervous people forget to smile.

Maintain eye contact – with the noise level in the room, the drinks and other activities it is important to maintain eye contact.

Ask about them & their niche – people love to talk about themselves and they love talking about their business or product even more. Write yourself little notes if it is a person you want to remember.

Be assertive – this is no time to be shy. Fake it if you have to but stand your ground and show that you believe in yourself and your business.

Speak up – nervousness causes our voices to squeak or soften – be sure you speak up when conversing with your peers.

Be selective when choosing whom to talk to – there are going to be a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds, if your business is baking you don’t want to spend your time with someone who is an IT expert.

Know your intent before going – what is your purpose? Connect. Follow Up. Develop Partnerships.

Concentrate on quality contacts not quantity – the purpose of the networking event is to connect with businesses that compliment yours so that you can build each other up not about how many business cards you can collect.

Exchange business cards – upon introducing yourself, give your contact information.

Follow up immediately – immediately after write those thank you notes. Mention the event, remind them who you are and what you talked about and set up a follow up meeting.

How can you build their fan base & community? – Ask them what you can do for them to build their community – this helps you identify what services to offer them or what referrals, if any, you can give them.

What skill can you teach them? – This goes with asking them about their niche and how you can help them grow their fan base – identify a skill you have, it could be speaking, interviewing for a podcast or allowing them to guest blog.

Don’t be pushy – relax, don’t push your product or service. I know it is a networking event but believe me, people at these events want connections to grow their business not more products. You can say your 30-second pitch but only after they ask for more information after your introduction.

Introduce your brand & key product – in a concise sentence introduce yourself and your brand highlighting your key product

How can your product meet their needs? – They’ve told you about their niche and what they need to move forward now write down a note about how your product will meet their need. (Preferably on the back of their business card) This is not the time to throw your pitch at them.

Shake hands – shake hands at the same time you are introducing yourself. This gets it out of the way and is also an icebreaker.

Tweet a shout out – Just had a great conversation with someone? Tweet about it. Mention their business and how excited you are about getting to know them.

Connect with at least 5 people – You’ll meet way more people than you can possibly get back to. Concentrate on connecting with just 5 people that you know can be a potential partner. These will be the ones you follow-up with for future meetings.

Show confidence – You can be all tied up inside but show confidence on the outside. Practicing your questions before hand and really knowing who your ideal partner or client is will help.

Be human – This is self-explanatory right? Remember you are dealing with humans not numbers and sales.

A networking event’s purpose is to connect you with potential business partners and mentors not to get you sales. Stays focused on your goals and use the 21 tips above to reap many rewarding partnerships.