Building a network of contacts will open up doors for your business. Whether you’re looking to recruit, find new suppliers or win more business, networking events can be fantastic for making new connections. To help you get the most from your next event, we’ve put together our top tips below.
Attending countless events with no strategy can lead to a lot of business cards with no viable contacts. However, if you take a systematic approach to planning prior to the event then you can create more successful business relationships.
Only attend the important events
As a business owner your time is important, so it is imperative to prioritise what events to attend. Evaluate the current business network that you have. Identify what connections you have in place and what kinds are missing. Then, choose events which are most likely to be attended by the types of people you are looking to meet with.
Plan who you want to speak to
Before going to the event, ask yourself “why am I going?” Are you looking to reach targeted individuals, build visibility within your industry or source new suppliers? It is important to clarify what you want to get out of the event so you can make solid connections through meaningful dialogue. You can usually get information during your registration process so you know who to target.
Plan what you are going to say
Once you have the chance to engage with someone it is also vital to know what to say. Construct a short and simply way to describe your business, outlining what your unique selling point is. However, avoid writing yourself a monotonous script. You are there with the purpose to discover mutually beneficial relationships, not to force one.
Take business cards
First impressions are everything. Invest in your business cards and promotional materials. Think of it as an investment – take the time and pay to create constructive and well formatted resources that show off how professional you really are. Make sure you bring enough with you!
What to do at the event
It can be incredibly intimidating entering a roomful of strangers. Take the initiative to strike up a few conversations or join group discussions rather than waiting for others to come to you. You can do this by simply introducing yourself or asking a casual question like “How are you finding the event” or “What do you do.” This will allow for a natural flow of conversation.
Help conversation flow
Now the conversation has started, what should you talk about? Ensure you have read up on the latest industry news and trends beforehand so you are prepared to discuss these further. This will allow for a natural flow of discussion. Ask lots of questions and listen to the answers and write down an interesting fact on their business card. This will be important for the follow up. It is important to be polite, and conduct yourself respectfully. Avoid drinking too much or discussing offensive topics. Presenting yourself as polite, helpful and someone worth knowing. This will help you network more effectively and reach your goals.
Learn how to exit
It is important to remain open-minded and speak to make the most of the event. A good rule of thumb is to speak for ten minutes and then move on. Ending conversations in a polite way can be tricky. However, you can do this in a non-awkward way by saying something like “It was really lovely to talk to you but I am going to take a walk around. I hope to see you at another event soon” or “It has been great to get to know you but I really must say hello to a few more people. I hope you enjoy the rest of the event.”
Follow up promptly
Follow up with your connections promptly after the event, or all your hard work will go to waste! Stephen Fear calls it “consolidating the contact,” and it is a key way to make sure your networking makes a difference in the long run. Aim to connect through some platform within two days of meeting them. Tell them you enjoyed meeting them and refer to a particular point of the conversation. By doing this it will help them remember who you are and shows them you were engaged during your encounter.