A group of young businesspeople mingle and converse happily in a large minimalist room. The people are wearing business casual clothing and lanyards with blue or light green ID cards hanging from them.
One way to network (and to build networking skills) is to attend a variety of events, including ones in industries outside of yours. — Getty Images/LeoPatrizi

A solid professional network opens you up to new business opportunities and sets you apart from the competition. Most people know that networking is essential, but few understand how to do it effectively. Listed below are seven tips on how to network with other entrepreneurs.

[Read more: Networking Groups for Entrepreneurs and Business Owners]

Come up with an elevator pitch

Networking events can be intimidating, so it’s a good idea to go into them prepared. One of the ways you can prepare is by coming up with an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch briefly summarizes your background, experience, and expertise.

It should be no longer than 60 seconds and pique the other person’s interest to learn more about what you do. If you spend time practicing your elevator pitch, it will start to come more naturally to you.

Ask interesting questions

The best way to get to know other professionals at networking events is by asking interesting questions. Asking the right questions can also help you learn more about a particular company or industry.

For example, let’s say you’re interested in working at a specific company but aren’t sure if it’s the right fit for you. If you can talk to someone currently working there, asking more questions about their job will help you determine what the work environment is like.

[Read more: How an Online Network Can Grow Your Small Business]

Regularly attend events

The only way to get better at networking is by regularly attending a variety of events. You can attend online and in-person events and look for events in different industries. Attending online events allows you to participate in events in other locations.

By looking for ways to help other people build their networks, you’ll strengthen your own at the same time.

Focus on building relationships

Many people go into networking events focusing on how they can benefit from the situation. But other people can sense when you approach them with an agenda in mind. If you want to be an effective networker, you need to focus on what you can give rather than what you can get.

Once you make a connection with someone, make sure to follow up with that person. Connecting once at a networking event is great, but if you want to build genuine relationships, you’ll need to get in the habit of following up.

Show up consistently on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is one of the best ways to start building your professional network. By connecting with and following other entrepreneurs, you’ll begin to build mutually beneficial relationships.

Take time every day to like and leave thoughtful comments on other people’s posts. You can also join different LinkedIn groups to connect with other business owners.

You can also start posting your own content on LinkedIn and building a following. This is a great way to start positioning yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

[Read more: 10 LinkedIn Groups for Entrepreneurs]

Be intentional

If you’ve decided to make networking a priority, it’s easy to overdo it. After all, you could attend endless conferences, trade shows, and networking events. But events can be draining, and spreading yourself too thin won’t help you get the results you want.

Choose to be intentional with your time and only attend events that align with your current business goals. You’ll enjoy the experience more and will be able to build genuine connections.

Look for ways to help others connect

If you’re looking for ways to build your professional network, that means other people are too. Look for opportunities to help people in your network connect.

You can do this by leaving someone you worked with a positive recommendation on LinkedIn. Or you can introduce two of your connections who could benefit professionally by meeting. By looking for ways to help other people build their networks, you’ll strengthen your own at the same time.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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