Do you find networking events daunting? If you are not familiar with networking groups and it’s not something you find easy, then try these tips.
1. Have a plan. Decide before hand why you are attending this event. Is it to collect 10 new business cards? To ask 3 people to sign up to your newsletter? To meet a specific person? To speak to 5 new people about your business? You are more likely to circulate and feel the event was worthwhile if you have a goal in mind.
2. Don’t blend in. You don’t have to look out of place, but wearing something bright, or an interesting tie or necklace will help you stand out from the crowd and will help you be remembered.
3. Where possible aim to arrive slightly early or on time. It is easier to break into groups at the beginning and less daunting then walking into a packed room where everyone already seems to know each other.
4. Have some stock phrases ready for graciously moving on to circulate with another group.
“It’s been great to meet you, there are a number of other people I need to make contact with, so I hope you’ll excuse me”
“I’m going to get another drink; would you like to come?” and then plan to expand your group with people who are at the refreshment table.
“Please excuse me, I need to use the toilets” and when you return, join another group.
If you find yourself back with someone that you don’t want to spend any more time with, then ask them if they have met anyone they think you should meet, or point out someone you think they should chat to, or suggest you both introduce yourself to a nearby group.
5. Prepare an elevator script summarising who you are and what you do. If that feels false and uncomfortable then try spinning it so that you describe your ideal client and how you solve their problems, rather than making it about you. Some networking groups have a 2 minute slot where everyone introduces themselves, others don’t, so make sure you check the format.
6. Have your business cards to hand, not in a bag or in their box, but a few easy access ones in a pocket to avoid awkward fumbling about.
7. Don’t actively look for work! No one likes a hard sell, and any business is more likely to come from people that these contacts recommend you to. So concentrate on having 2 way conversations, and coming across as likeable, professional and knowledgeable.
8. If the conversation starts to falter, then have a few questions up your sleeve…
“Is this the first time you’ve been to this meeting?”
“ How did you get into ________?”
“ What do you like most about what you do?”
“ I may already know someone who could do business with you, what does your ideal client look like?”
“Are you interested in getting coffee next week? I’d love to learn more about____”
9. Follow up afterwards. Send them an email, make personalised connection on LinkedIn, but make sure you ask their permission before adding them to your mailing list
10. If your memory isn’t great and it’s a big meeting, write notes on their business cards, so you remember them later. You want to be able to separate out those who sounded interested in your products or services – using red, amber and green notation would work.
Have you had any networking wins, or networking disasters?
Feel free to share in the comments below.