15May

5 Steps to effectively network at events

By Michael Griffiths 

Business networking events can be for finding not only customers, but equally for finding strategic alliance partners, useful referrals for your clients and like-minded business owners who you can build a relationship with. Therefore getting yourself out there and booked into a local business networking events is something you should be doing and doing regularly to help your business grow.  

But attending the event itself and meeting people is not enough. On its own it’s a couple of hours spent out of the office chatting to fellow business owners who you will most likely forget – and who will forget you – once everyone gets back to the busy office. Effectively following-up after a networking event is key to maximizing the benefits you get from attending business networking events.

Here are five ways to effectively getting great connections from a networking event:

1. Adjust your Attitude:
Rather than view networking as sucking up and shuffling business cards take the approach that it’s about educating yourself about opportunities. That education could be in the form of meeting new people, learning a new idea, learning about new ways of connecting with people, getting company and industry information, and, of course, job leads. That attitude helps when you have to reach out to strangers for informational interviewing or are following up after a networking event, something I do on a regular basis. Networking also gives you the chance to practice self-marketing. You can tell right away if you’re getting your message across.

2. Schedule a time to follow up with the business cards collected:
Whenever you schedule time in your diary to attend a networking event, make sure to schedule time in your diary (you should do this within 24 hours of the event itself) to input the business cards you’ve collected and follow-up.
Typically you’ll only need 15-30 minutes to input a handful of business cards into your database. Make sure to note down in the contact record where and when you met the individual and why you connected at the event. You’ll be grateful of these notes when you try to find that individual but can’t remember his or her name 12 months down the road. 

3. Email or call 
Following up with an individual by e-mail or by telephone call is a must, if you want to build a relationship with the person you’ve met. But make sure to follow-up in the right way! Don’t assume that the person you’ve met remembers you or indeed where you met – many business owners attend lots of networking events and meet dozens of people each week!
When you reach-out to the person you’ve met you should give them a gentle reminder of where and when you met, and ideally, what you spoke about during your conversation and any other memory hooks.

4. Share helpful content
If you’ve met somebody at a networking event and discussed a specific topic or a challenge they’re currently having, look for an opportunity to follow-up by including content they’d find useful. This is not an opportunity to sell, but it can be an opportunity to share your own educational material – be they videos, blogs or articles. So a follow-up where you say “We can do that for you” is unlikely to work, but a follow-up where you say “Here’s an article post I wrote on the subject” can work. Again, you’re demonstrating that you’re trying to help the person – not sell to them.

5. Connect on social media
Nearly all of us have a LinkedIn account, connecting with that person on LinkedIn helps expand your network. Once you’re both connected on LinkedIn, don’t make the second big mistake of not using that connection! Take a look at their profile – read about their background – see who they are connected to – and look for opportunities to continue the conversation. It may be that they have a connection to that business you’ve been desperate to talk to about your services! Remember look to see whether the person is on Twitter too – and if they are, give them a shout-out to say how much you enjoyed meeting them at the event! Everybody likes to be acknowledged and it’s another way to stay front of mind.

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