Networking events are a great way to connect directly with local businesses, develop contacts and raise awareness of your business and the services it provides. Find out how to find the best events and how to maximise what you get out of them.
Finding the right events
Locating events with the most potential is a case of trial and error. Investigate past events and event reviews/reports, look at testimonials and research the delegate list, looking for shared areas of interest. Event photos can help you work out the type of person the event is catering for; will it suit your business and your goals? Make a decision to attend an event and treat it like the right decision. If things don’t work out as you’d hoped, learn from the experience and refine your criteria for selecting events. Keep learning and keep testing and you’ll soon become accustomed to selecting the best events.
The Art of Conversation
Networking events are informal gatherings so don’t be afraid to just start up a conversation. Forget about generating leads. This may happen but generally events are there to make contacts and build relationships. Be yourself; people are more likely to warm to you if you aren’t trying too hard. If discussing relationships, focus on benefits to both parties. Don’t worry if introductions seem a little forced or awkward; networking events can often be fast-paced places and introductions are often made very quickly. Just keep chatting and you’ll soon be in full, natural flow.
Summarising your business
Networking events allow you to discuss your business with interested local professionals and build new relationships on the fly. If you can succinctly summarise your business and what you do in around 30 seconds, this is a fantastic starting point and provides a way for you to introduce yourself professionally without taking up too much time. Consider how your business relates to that of your listeners; keeping them engaged is a good goal and will help endear them towards you.
Once you start attending networking events more often, you’ll notice repetitions in the lines you use, the news you refer to and the anecdotes you use to point out the positive points of your company. If they work, don’t be afraid to continue using them at the same event or subsequent events. The ability to engage and interest are both important, and are not always easy to achieve, so take notice if you manage to do it and remember how and why your techniques worked.
Always follow up with attendees you’ve met. If there is clear possibility for a business relationship then you may wish to ask them directly if they’re interested in setting up a meeting to discuss what can be done. If the possibility is not so clear, make sure you send a follow-up email with a summary of your business and a friendly reference to the conversation you had at the event itself. Remember you’re trying to build relationships, so don’t act too stoically. Over time, send them periodic catch-up communication or news stories in their niche to let them know you are on their side. You never know what will happen in a year’s time; a possible business relationship may arise and be successful because you kept in contact and nurtured the connection. They may also be more willing to help you out, such as by providing business contacts, if you maintain a relationship once the event has concluded.