It’s easier than ever to ‘connect’ with fellow professionals and expand your network. With a few clicks, you can build your contacts and expand your business’ reach. As useful a tool as this is, there is little substitute for genuine face-to-face interactions. By attending networking events, you can have a more memorable interaction with someone, and stand more chance of doing business with them in the future.
Get There Early
This is especially important if this is a regular event that you are just joining. Getting there early will allow the introductions to happen naturally, rather than being a latecomer who has to force their way into an established group. It will also help to get more one-on-one time with people,
When attending a networking event, ensure you’re clear about what it is you’d like to achieve. Ask yourself, who do I want to meet, and why? Lots of networking events have a guest list, so you may be able to plan some specific people who it would be useful to talk to. If you have some company names, do some research on what they do and how they might be complementary to your business.
Have Some Questions
A further part of preparation includes the questions you are intending to ask. Go in with a clear idea of what you’d like to find out, and some open-ended ice breaker questions to help start the conversation. Things like ‘What’s your area of expertise?’ and ‘How did you get started in what you do?’ will help you stand out, create a more natural conversation and potentially help you to build better professional relationships.
Think About Your Answers
The most common questions that you will be asked are ‘What do you do?’ and ‘How’s Business?’; so definitely plan a clear answer for these. You may also find it useful to prepare a sort of ‘elevator pitch’, essentially a rehearsed statement that goes through who you are, and what you do. This technique will allow you to get across all the essential information in a short period of time. Also have a think about how a recent piece of work or service really helped a client, which will help to engage the person you are conversing with. Remember that there are going to be a lot of business cards at these events, so it’s important to get your benefits across and be memorable for the right reasons.
Follow-up within Three Days
Most people are sceptical of networking, and you’ll hear lots of stories of people who claim there is no benefit to the process. It’s estimated that around 80% of leads from networking events are never followed up. If you leave with a stack of business cards and contact details; make sure you take a few minutes and get in touch. Send an article or podcast that may be of interest, even connect on LinkedIn, that face-to-face meeting will give it far more benefit.
Networking can be a really valuable resource, but it requires a time commitment before and after to really see the benefits. If you’ve got an event to attend in the near future, we hope you find this advice useful, let us know how it went in the comments below.