Making the Most of Networking Events
It's important that you know how to make the most of networking opportunities. If you've just received an invitation to attend an event where there'll be a lot of networking going on, here are some useful tips that can help you get much greater and longer lasting business value from it.
Get to know the organizers
Every networking event has been organized by somebody who knows the attendees and their backgrounds. Find out who it is and speak to them before the event. They can identify the 'movers and shakers' in the crowd and help you meet them.
Look for groups
Most networking events have their groups, people who know each other and meet regularly at these gatherings. It may seem hard to break into one of these groups but think of the advantages - meet one and you've met them all! If you know that someone's a member of one of these groups you can have an informal chat and ask them to provide an introduction to the other members.
Have something to say
Be ready with something to say when you're introduced to someone new. They'll want to know a bit about your business and how it's performing. Prepare a brief 'elevator' speech - about 30 seconds long, which presents your details and is both informative and interesting. Rehearse it so it sounds natural when you deliver it.
Show interest in others
If you're talking with a potential customer, try and keep the conversation on them and gather information you can use after the event. Show interest in them and offer to send them some information about your business. Even if they're not immediately interested they'll usually accept out of politeness.
Don't forget your business cards
One of the most important networking tools is the business card. You literally can't afford to be without one at these events, so come prepared with a quantity of well designed cards. For instance, have them printed in a second language if you'll be meeting people who speak a different language. You might want to have some cards printed especially for the event with more details about your products or services than your standard card.
Do your best to be helpful
One thing that you can always do at networking functions is to help someone find what they're looking for. They might say they're looking for a supplier of office furnishings or a new source of plumbing products. If you can help them make a connection you'll be favorably remembered.
Look for the 'loners'
Not everyone's gregarious and outgoing and there will always be people at networking events who look lost. It's a good chance for you to introduce yourself and see if they might want to have a conversation. You can be doubly supportive and introduce them to others you know in the room. Be enthusiastic and you'll be seen as someone who gets things done.
You meet a lot of people at networking events and it's sometimes hard a week later to remember exactly what was said to any particular person. Collect business cards from everyone you meet and if you've made a commitment to do something after the event, make a note on that person's business card as soon as your conversation's over. Never rely on memory alone.
Susan RoAne, who writes books on networking, including How To Work A Room and The Secrets Of Savvy Networking, estimates that up to seventy percent of the population are 'situationally shy' when it comes to networking events. Attending an event with strangers is our number one most uncomfortable situation (public speaking is number two). Just remember that the other networkers are there to meet you, even if you're new and they've been doing it for years. These events are your opportunity to meet people who can help you in your business, so don't hold back just because you don't know anybody. Be prepared and you'll enjoy yourself as well as increasing business revenue.