How to Network at Business Networking Events
If you are running a new start-up it’s important to make business connections. But networking can leave you exhausted. When I first started working as a marketing consultant I went to many B2B events and morning breakfasts. My time was spent talking to only a handful of people and conversation was never kept on topic. Network like this and you’re left with poor leads. The turning point came when I was lucky enough to have some face to face time with a former apprentice contestant. She advised me to change tactics. She told me to go to networking events with one goal, to collect as many business cards as I could. Then in the comfort of my own home I personally emailed all the contacts I had from the business cards. I was then able to determine which would be the most worthwhile pursuing.
I have not attended any networking events for many years. But if you are just starting out here are some tips to help you make the most of your networking opportunities.
Your main goal should always be to collect information about other people. That usually means collecting business cards. But networking isn’t a one- way street, so be prepared to add value in your conversations with others. Of course you’ll have your personal introduction off-pat, but look for opportunities to be helpful. Don’t be too stiff when you introduce yourself.
Any event has at least three key people: the organiser/host, the speaker and the person doing the registrations. The person handling registration is often over-looked, but chatting to them is a good opportunity to find out more about the organisation, and having signed people in, can point individuals out to you.
Introductions are important. Some people will advise to have a self-commercial in mind, but this isn’t the time to sell. Rather, get your pitch across succinctly, but focus on making conversation. Ask the people you meet about what they are up to and what their background is. Don’t feel you can never go off topic. But digress in a measured way. Above all else, listen well.
People who are new to business often focus on giving out as many business cards as possible. The truth is the cards you give out aren’t as important as the cards you collect. One tip I picked up early on was to make notes on the backs of cards as you receive them. That way you are less likely to run into problems putting a face to a name. If you promise to send someone anything of value, do it.
When you leave the event make sure you say goodbye to the key players. Thank the speaker if there is one and the host and the person on registration. To maximise the investment you have made in terms of your time, make sure you follow up your contacts with an email. Just as I did, you’ll quickly suss out the most promising.
But before I finish I just want to mention one more opportunity.
Networking on Social Media
Social media gives people the opportunity to network. It’s less time consuming than conventional networking, but needs a lighter touch. Create opportunities to meet some of your network face to face when the opportunity arises. If you seek opportunities where you can add value or build rapport you won’t go far wrong.