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One of the most important aspects of successful business practice is recognizing and participating in different networking opportunities.  Networking presents an entrepreneur with connections, business opportunities, and a way to hear about different experiences, made up of successes and failures from others who are on a similar path.  Whether you’re working to grow within a specific industry, or just looking to make general connections, participating in networking events are a great way to get your name out there, and meet interesting people along the way.  Here are a few essential tips for successful networking:

Build Relationships

One of the most important parts of business is relationship building.  As an entrepreneur or business executive, you want to make sure your relationship building skills are strong, as you need to make connections with peers, fellow employees, and even clients/consumers.  The relationships you build can bring great success to your business ventures. Be genuine, and work on creating relationships with those that you have an interest in, and think you can learn from.

Be a Strong Listener

Part of your relationship building skills should be focused on your ability to listen to others, and retain important information.  Networking events aren’t just an opportunity to sell yourself and your business; they’re more of a time to get to know others that are on a similar path and listen to their experiences and potential advice.  When meeting someone new, or joining a conversation, listen to what is being said and make sure you’re retaining some of the information. A great way to make a solid first impression is to show someone you have an interest in what they’re saying, and showing acknowledgment is a fantastic way to do so.

Casual, Yet Professional

At any networking event, you always want to maintain professionalism.  However, don’t look at this as an opportunity to sell your business, product, etc.  Share information about yourself and what you do, but don’t be afraid to keep things a little more on the casual side.  Be yourself; don’t try too hard.

Ask Questions

During networking events, you’re doing to be doing a lot of talking, and so are others.  It’s important to note; people tend to enjoy talking about themselves and their endeavors.  Be curious, and ask questions that relate to what they’re saying. Show enough engagement to signify your interest; “The more interested you are in others, the more interesting you become”–Forbes Council Member, Tracey Grove.