How to Make the Most of a Business Networking Event

Posted by on Oct 24 2017

You’re not alone. Most people are uncomfortable walking into a roomful of strangers.

Networking at business events can help you grow your business and allow you to do hands-on marketing research. Learning to mingle and follow-up with business networking contacts is crucial to your small business success. The following techniques will assist you in connecting effectively with others.

Most of these techniques can be adapted for networking online, too!

Before the Event

  • When you write the networking event (or online networking campaign) into your calendar, carve out 2 hours the next day for follow-up — so you know you have time to complete the task.
  • Know your goals: What is your purpose for attending this particular event or launching this particular networking campaign online? To meet certain people? To find prospective customers? To find a resource you need? Meet a connect with like-minded colleagues? Nurture existing relationships?
  • Come prepared with a pen and a small notebook, or your smartphone note taking app, so you can jot down who each person is and what’s important to remember about them.
  • If it’s a cocktail party, or finger foods are being served during the networking portion of the meeting, eat before you go to the event. It’s better to carry only a drink, instead of trying to juggle a plate of food and shake hands at the same time.
  • Ask the event host about dress code. Some events are Business Formal and people will be wearing business suits. Some events are Business Casual and there will be a mix of more relaxed styles. By knowing in advance what to expect, you maximize the feeling of being part of the group.

At a Live Networking Event

  • Arrive early. Get there early when the group is small and manageable.
  • Enter the room with a smile. Even if you feel nervous, “act as if.” If you have a smile on your face, you will be perceived as approachable, enthusiastic, and friendly. (And you’ll feel a whole lot better, too!)
  • Bring 20 business cards and promise yourself you won’t leave until you’ve given out all the cards. Better yet, ask for other people’s cards if you sincerely want to keep in touch with them. Not everyone you meet will be a good resource or connection.
  • Make sure you mingle. Do not isolate yourself with only the friends or colleagues you already know. Move around. Spend no more than 5-6 minutes talking with any one person.
  • Ask your host to introduce you to people that you want to meet, or to get you started in a group where you know no one. If they have a Greeting Committee or Ambassadors, find out who they are and ask for help with introductions. Reach out to people standing by themselves, introduce people to each other. (Note: if you are part of a group or association that does not have a Greeting Committee, offer to become a one-person Greeting Committee. It gives you the perfect excuse to introduce yourself to everyone who walks in the door!)
  • When you meet a person, shake hands, and repeat their name. This not only helps you remember it, but it shows that you’re making an effort to hear the name properly.
  • Wear a nametag that is easy to read and is descriptive of you. Wear it on your right shoulder so that people can easily see it when they shake your hand.
  • Create, practice and use a description of yourself and your work that can be said in 30 seconds or less. Know how to describe your work in one or two sentences. Make sure this quick introduction includes your name, the audience you serve, and how you uniquely help them.
  • Listen more than you talk. Remember that there is nothing more flattering than someone who listens carefully and shows sincere, respectful interest in other people. Ask questions and listen to the responses so that you begin to understand the person. This also helps you to identify who might be a potential client for your own products and services.
  • Take notes to help you remember what people have said as soon as you can. If you have to, take a quick break to a quiet area to write up your notes during the event while it’s fresh in your mind. When you get back to the office, put all this information into your contact management software.

After the Live Networking Event

  • Once you have someone’s business card, make sure you follow up with them within 24 hours of the event.
  • If there’s an obvious win-win connection with someone you’ve met at an event, call them up and invite them to lunch or a Skype coffee to explore the connection further.
  • Keep a spreadsheet or database of all the people you’ve reached out to, notes about that person, and dates/times you’ve communicated with them. In this way you’ll know who to follow-up with and the nature of any conversations you’ve had with them.

Tips for Online Networking Campaigns

  • Always start with your goals for this networking campaign. Are you trying to connect with prospective customers, or wanting a closer relationship with mentors and colleagues?
  • Just like in face-to-face networking, make sure you follow up with each person you make the initial contact with.
  • Read their online profile before contacting them. It’s a dead giveaway that you’re just trolling for prospects if you ask them questions that they’ve already answered on their social media profile and/or website.
  • If you see that you have mutual connections, ask for an introduction.

Always Remember

  • Sending an email or a text is fine, but the money is in the phone. Phone calls (or video conferences) are more personal and form a deeper relationship than emails or texts.

When you look upon networking events and business functions as an opportunity to meet new people, do some market research and find potential clients, it can become a joy instead of a chore. Going in with a game plan makes you feel like you can really make the most of the event.

   

7 comments for now

7 Responses to “How to Make the Most of a Business Networking Event”

  1. Roland HeszNo Gravatar

    A really helpful article on networking, I would add only one thing.

    An extra ‘After the event’ step:

    Introduce people. If I meet a great marketing guy, I usually check my contacts and introduce them to my contacts who work in a related field (designers, printing companies, etc.).

    If I meet someone who needs marketing help, I send them a few of my marketing contacts, based on their need and personality.

    Introducing people is a great way to make stronger relationships, stronger networks, and also pays off when 3 weeks later, out of the blue they introduce someone to you.

    09 Dec 2014 at 9:46 am

  2. Marcia B MerrillNo Gravatar

    All too often, my clients often forget that follow up is the key to turn that business card into more than a passing contact. I’m writing a series on my blog about that…I seem to recall you coached me about this! 🙂

    In Abundance!
    The Transition Chick! TM

    09 Dec 2014 at 11:27 am

  3. Carolyn StephensNo Gravatar

    I always say, “The cards you get are more important than the cards you give.” You are in charge of that follow up. If someone seems to be an especially valuable resource, I turn down one corner of the card indicating immediate follow up with an invitation to lunch or coffee.

    09 Dec 2014 at 12:35 pm

  4. Don DeWaayNo Gravatar

    Thanks Karyn, First of all, great summary of very important steps on networking events. A couple of things that I recommend to The Profit Zone clients are to try to identify the greatest needs of the person you talk to as soon as possible. It is imperative that you get them talking about their favorite topics, themselves and their business and learn what makes them laugh and what makes them cry.

    If you see an opportunity to connect them to solutions either you offer or associated parties offer, simply suggest a solution that you know is a great fit, ask them if you could meet over coffee or lunch so you can learn more and go deeper and take out your schedules to get it on the calendar so they are committed right then and there.

    Lastly, when appropriate and when I feel confident that they are a quality prospect I offer them a gift like a book or other resource that I think will help them as an incentive to meet.

    26 Oct 2017 at 7:01 am

  5. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    It sounds like, Don, that it would be wise to have a list of questions to ask anyone you meet, which are crafted to get them to open up about their situation, their life.

    26 Oct 2017 at 9:39 am

  6. BrendaNo Gravatar

    Networking can feel so…awkward…and…so important. Your tips reinforce what I tell my clients at Creating Your Beyond.

    I suggest to my clients to have a column on their follow-up spreadsheet to track warm touches or business touches with their networking connection.

    It takes time to develop a relationship and to build trust. Hence, a warm touch is non-business and might include topics of interest. The World Series for example if you learned the person likes baseball.

    Building successful business relationships is more than talking shop.

    I suggest to people to pretend they have the hosting hat on to help with the nervousness.

    Question about name tags: What do you mean by descriptive?

    26 Oct 2017 at 5:32 pm

  7. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Great tip, Brenda, about acting as if you were the host of the event instead of a guest. If you were hosting a networking event, what would you say to people walking in the door?

    For the nametag, what if it said Karyn Greenstreet – Helping The Self-Employed to Succeed, instead of Karyn Greenstreet – Passion For Business LLC. 🙂

    27 Oct 2017 at 8:04 am

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