5 Surefire Ways To Make The Most Out Of Networking Events
Have you ever attended a local event or meetup and left wondering if you got a good return on the time and money you invested? As someone who goes to networking events and conferences on a regular basis, I can definitely relate.
Networking with potential clients and partners can be an uncomfortable process, and setting yourself apart from all the other contractors is even more difficult. Especially as an introverted business owner, it’s important that we see our time is being well-spent and we’re making quality connections.
Here are five networking tips to see a good return on your time and get the most out of business events and meetups.
1. Beat out the competition by being prepared.
You can easily give yourself a leg up on the competition by doing this one simple thing: being prepared. A few days before the event, reach out to potential contacts via email to break the ice, introduce yourself and set up a private meetup.
Next make sure you have the necessities, like business cards or brochures, plenty of pens (extra pens for sharing are an easy conversation starter) and a notebook or tablet for taking notes.
I like to carry around a small folder with business card protector sleeves for easy storage and organization of other business cards I collect. Doing this will not only make you look super organized (people comment on it all the time), it will be so much easier to follow up after the event is over!
It’s also a good idea to ask about the dress code so you’re not the odd person out and can feel part of the group. If you’re taking time out of your day, and spending money on this event, you want to make sure you come prepared.
2. Reduce overwhelm by having a game plan in place.
What are your goals for attending this event? Do you want to land a new client, find a collaborative partner or just generally spread the word about your work? Define your purpose for being there and stick to that plan. It’s all too easy to attend every session and talk to everyone but that can lead to burnout fast.
I know we all want to get our money’s worth of the workshops and speeches, but sometimes less is more. There’s only so much networking, chatting with clients and note-taking that one business owner can take, before you can’t absorb anything anymore.
Only attend the workshops and meetings that will help you reach your goal of going to the event, and leave the rest alone. You’ll have a better quality time and can maximize your connections.
3. Make a good impression by not showing up late.
It goes without saying but you shouldn’t show up to an event late. You never know what traffic will be like, what the weather will do, or if you’ll have transportation issues, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time.
A smart idea is to locate the easiest or most direct route using Google Maps, just in case you run into these unpredictable issues. You should have enough time to unwind and prep before the event, so your first impression won’t be a disheveled and late mess.
You are the face of your business (or at least for this event) so make sure you’re portraying a professional and well-kept manner. Clients and partners want to work with YOU and subsequently your brand. So don’t be afraid to show them your personality, your quirky ideas and offer them out-of-the-box strategies on how you can work together.
4. Stand apart from the crowd by listening first.
Too many of us show up to meetings with a sales pitch, a topic idea or an outline of what we want to say. However, we forget the importance of listening and genuinely being interested in other people’s ideas.
Instead of chucking your business card at everyone you meet, treat it like a first date and really get to know each of your contacts. You’ll be surprised how many small things you have in common with other people in your industry. It’s okay to have a few bullet points in mind, but always listen first then share your ideas.
5. Set reminders to follow up afterwards.
All of us have good intentions of following up after a networking event but how many of us really follow through? This is probably one of the easiest ways to make a good impression on any of your contacts since they won’t expect a follow-up after an event.
In addition to using an organizational technique like the business card sheet protector, set a reminder in your calendar or make a note of each person who made an impression with you. If you have a potential lead or client you want to stay in contact with, create a task to follow up with them.
Like the dating analogy we used above, the same strategy applies to this too — don’t sound desperate by emailing or calling them the next day. Some of us need a few days to absorb everything from the event.
Set a reminder for a week after the event to say hello. If nothing else, you’ve kept the lines of communication open and will stick out in their minds compared to everyone else they met.
Making the most out of networking events
Getting a return on investment from a networking event doesn’t take a lot of work, you just need to apply a few of these simple strategies. By doing so, you’ll be able to land more leads, spread the word about your business, and walk away with some influential connections.