In this blog, I look at ways to help you get the most out of attending networking events. Not everyone enjoys going to networking meetings but for the majority of businesses, it is a vital part of building their client base. The key thing to remember is this is not an opportunity to just ‘chuck’ business cards at people, attend one event and expect the business to come rolling in! Networking is all about getting to know people, building trust and relationships so that people will want to work with you. Also, keep in mind that not everyone in the room will need your service/product but that doesn’t mean they don’t know someone else that will so continue to build a relationship with them so they feel confident enough to refer you to their wider network.
1. Business cards
It sounds obvious but take along your business cards, I’ve met quite a few people that have forgotten them. They don’t have to be expensive if you’re on a small budget. If you have tangible products some networking groups are happy for you to also take these for people to see.
2. Elevator pitch
Have your elevator pitch ready and make sure you’ve practised it over and over. Keep it concise telling others what you can offer them, where you work, who your ideal clients are and your goals. Change it about a bit as well so if you’re coming across the same people at events they won’t get bored hearing the same thing every time. Ideally, this should be a one minute pitch, many drag their pitch out and people switch off. In the networking group I run everyone gets a minute to pitch, this way it is fair on all attendees. We then break for informal networking so people can connect further with those they’d like to know more about.
Have an icebreaker question ready for when you first meet someone. Perhaps ask ‘what’s your story?’ The important part is to listen to the answer. Think about what you are able to offer this person and if you can’t help them do you know someone who you can refer them to?
Try and keep a diverse network. It’s good to network with like-minded business people but also try and get along to events for your chosen professional body.
5. Don’t panic
If the thought of networking leaves you in a panic it’s a good idea to turn up at the event early. There will be fewer people there leaving you to start a one-to-one conversation which will help you relax a bit before everyone else arrives.
6. Be consistent
It’s important that you keep attending the same networking groups so that you build up trust with others. People are more likely to buy from someone they know.
7. Stay in touch
If you connect with certain people and feel you could work with them then arrange to meet them separately for a coffee so you can learn more about them and their business. I’ve also met some great friends, as well as clients, this way.
8. Follow up
Once you have been to a networking event make sure you allocate some time in your diary the next day to follow up any leads and connect with new contacts online.
If you have any networking tips then please post them in the comments below.
For more business tips read more from my blog.