Whether you are a natural networker or you attend events and mingle with strangers under duress, have a read of this post to help you to get the most out of your business (and personal) networking events.
We are frequently helping a professional services firm develop their fee earners’ networking skills and thought it would make a useful blog post.
There are so many different types of networking events – you could attend half a dozen a day if you wanted to in Manchester alone – so its your job to make sure the ones you decide to attend are appropriate. The format will also vary.
The event could be a formal networking event where a group of people all sit around a table and take turns introducing themselves and their businesses or it could be simply turning up in a room full of random people and being left to your own devices. It could also involve speaking to people before or after an event.
It is important to make sure you have your meme clear and that you have practiced using it. When someone asks you what you do, have that reply word perfect without sounding plastic.
It is also worthwhile asking for an attendance sheet beforehand so you can see who else will be there and decide who you would like to single out to talk to. If you can’t get this in advance, take a few minutes on arrival to check the list or sign-in sheet. In doing so you ensure that you are not going in “blind” but you have purpose. Alot of “volume” networkers turn up at events, work the room at a lightening speed and collect as many business cards as they can without bothering to find out anything about you or your business. Rest assured they will be spamming the people whose cards they collected! This is not how you become an effective networker!
Note that you are not going to be selling to people you meet – far from it! Your aim is to introduce yourself and your business and open a dialogue with them. Follow up takes place after the networking event – just do what you say you will as you agree. It never ceases to amaze me how many people I meet at networking events who will tell you that they will be in touch and you never hear from them again! And the ones who tell you they know “just the client for you”! Sometimes they are genuine and of course if they are of interest to me then I will take the responsibility for the follow up.
That isn’t to say that you should dismiss people either just because they don’t appear to be relevant or useful to your business. In fact, one of my best referrers is in the construction industry. He doesn’t refer construction clients to me but he is a very competent networker who is always looking to match people up with contacts he meets wanting their services. As a result I am always thinking of him too when I meet the type of prospect he is interested in. A well coined phrase in networking is “its not who they are, its who they know”! You also get out of networking what you put into it.
A final point about events – don’t feel embarrassed to tell someone that you must go and speak to more people. You may end up in a situation where somebody sticks close to you because they don’t know anyone else or they are nervous. It isn’t your job to hold their hand. Politely introduce them to someone else and move on.
If you would like help or guidance on networking please email me.