We think it's fair to say that not everyone loves attending networking events. (Understatement of the year, am I right???)
Yet we all know that business networking is a valuable skill that can lead to opportunities you wouldn't become aware of otherwise. While the best-planned networking event ideas facilitate attendee's meeting and getting to know each other, they can still be overwhelming.
Fortunately, Greetly is here to make you more productive. So look at your calendar and find the next important networking event. Make a note to re-read this article 2-3 days ahead of time.
The following tips will help you get more out of the upcoming event and, dare we say, actually enjoy yourself too!
Tip #1: Have An Objective... And Then Prepare
Why are you going to this event? "It's a great opportunity" or "To represent my company" or "To make some contacts" isn't a specific enough objective. Be specific and really drill down to find your main purpose for attending the event.
- Are you looking to meet someone specific? Or people who meet a certain professional profile? Why?
- In terms of meeting people, is your goal quality or quantity?
- Are you going to pitch something? Like preparation for a job search or to share your latest product news?
- Are you seeking a mentor?
- Are you simply making an appearance?
Once you have your objective, prepare for success. Think about your elevator pitch. Practice it to ensure you have the right level of enthusiasm. Too often people walk into an event and meet amazing contacts but get so nervous they don't take advantage of the situation. Or their modesty takes over and they sell themselves short. And pack your business cards and a pen.
Tip #2: Create a Contact Strategy
If you are going to the event with the intention of connecting with specific people, be sure you do your homework. Look for the attendee list online, or ask the organizers to share it with you. Research contacts beforehand, and allow enough time to meet and engage with them without rushing or spreading yourself too thin. Jot down a couple of details about each person you meet on the back of their business card.
Tip #3: Simplify As Much As Possible
This trick is especially important for introverts who find social events anxiety-provoking. Minimize all of the last minute details:
- Choose your outfit the day before.
- Be sure you know how to get to the event or have someone take you.
- Give yourself plenty of time to get there.
These may seem like small details. Yet they will go a long way to ensure you arrive relaxed and confident. Before you face the crowd, use an event app to check yourself in and check the mirror to tidy your appearance. Now you are ready to impress.
Tip #4: Find A Way To Be Of Service
Of course, you are going to the event to develop yourself, or your business. But, it won't work if you show up trying to take, take take. You need to give to get. As you speak to people, listen for opportunities to help them.
- Do you have connections that can help them?
- Do you have the expertise they are seeking?
- Have you read an article or book that covers their current priorities?
Tip #5: Go with a Colleague or Friend
Obviously, you can't invite your boss if you are looking for a new job. In many scenarios though, you will be more comfortable if you ensure someone you know will be in attendance. They are a good fallback while you are in between conversations or scouting the room for one of your targets.
They are a fallback though. Do not allow yourself to spend too much time with people you already know or you will not achieve your objective. Strategically use a quick hello to calm any nerves, think about your prior conversations, and run through what else you need to achieve at this event.
Tip #6: Relax And Enjoy Yourself
Networking events don't have to be a chore. If you prepare, get clear on your purpose and create a plan of action, you are more likely to feel confident and enjoy yourself.
Bonus Tip: Become an Organizer
Don't be intimidated, you don't have to build a community from scratch. If you enjoy an event, reach out to the organizers and offer to assist. They are likely volunteers, overwhelmed, and ecstatic to have your help.
This makes you an insider. You will get to know all of the key players. This gives you an extra reason to speak with them when they arrive - and sometimes in advance as part of developing the affair.
This is especially valuable if you manage a shared workspace. Coworking events are the best way to attract, engage and retain members. To find groups that are relevant to your client base and sponsor them by providing your venue.
Bonus Tip #2: Follow-Up
Since few people do this, following up with everyone you meet will help you stand out from the crowd. It doesn't have to be complicated, just a quick email or Linkedin connection request. Beyond the obvious benefits, following up will help you down the road. It may take three months - or three years - before you start to make a real connection. These emails will act as your CRM database, a reference to remind yourself when and where you met, what you discussed, and who else was in attendance.
Summary - Overcome Intimidation
Breathe deep, you've got this. Using the tools above, even the professionals at Business Networking International will wonder how you do it. And it's simple.
- Develop your objective, prepare and think through the details.
- Once you arrive, execute your plan.
- And then follow-up to maximize the chance of going from conversation to a mutually beneficial relationship.