Networking Events can be excellent lead generators and skill building opportunities if you need to get yourself and your business ‘out there’. These types of groups allow you to mingle with like-minded people and work on honing and developing your business skills. If you are not comfortable speaking about your business, networking events will help you. Below are my 7 tips for using networking events to your advantage.
Tip 1: Have a plan
Research what networking group you are planning to go to and what type of people will be attending. Practice your introduction and your icebreakers to help you to feel comfortable enough to start talking to others. You don’t need to speak to everyone in the room – pick a small group of people to get to know.
Tip 2: Fix your time and be on time
Be on time. It will take the pressure off and it will give you some time to get accustomed to the room and to the set-up of the networking group. You’re there for you so make sure that if you are not comfortable that you work out how to make yourself feel more relaxed. If you have a fixed time to attend stick to it. Don’t feel like you need to stay longer than necessary or until the event ends, but it may help to tell the networking host that you may need to leave earlier.
Tip 3: Share your story and passions
Personal stories will make you more interesting and memorable to others. Talk about why you are doing what you do. What made you start your business in the first place? What are your hobbies? By finding common elements with others it will make you memorable to them. Who do you remember when you meet people? People you like and want to get to know more. You never know what opportunities may come from a short but memorable interaction.
Tips 4: Don’t sell
You are there to build relationships and connections. If someone asks you about your business have a short pitch ready (your elevator pitch) to explain what you do. It’s hard not to keep talking about your business, but keep it light. Got a funny or interesting story about something that happened with your business? Use that instead as a buffer to not move into anything more salesy. Hand over a business card and say that you will follow up with them after the networking event. Make sure you have enough business cards to be able to hand to most of the people at the networking event.
Tip 5: Enjoy yourself
Smile! Try to be welcoming and engaged. The point of networking is to meet people, learn and actually to help others. Listen to other people’s stories and ask questions about them. A lot of networking comes from nonverbal cues, in fact, 93% of interactions are non-verbal. Wear something comfortable and that makes you feel awesome. If you do not do well in crowds, find a space in the room you are comfortable in and hang out there – people will come to you if they see you engaged in the event and interested in talking.
Tip 6: Follow up
Make sure that you follow up with all of the people that you collected business cards from within 48 hours of the networking event. You should be able to connect with them on social media such as Facebook or Twitter and also LinkedIn. You may also like to send them a ‘nice to meet you’ email (have a draft ready which you can reuse again and again) and remind them of any topics you discussed during your brief conversation with them.
If you need to, make notes on their business card to help you recall elements of the conversation later on. You can’t add these people to your mailing list without permission, but it doesn’t mean you can’t ask them when you give them your card (write on the card that they agreed and the date), or in your follow up email.
Tips 7: Where to find networking events
There are many places to find networking events all over the UK and indeed globally. The list below has some of the main places to find networking events you may also think about networking events with associations. You can also find events through your local council and business gateways so check those out as they could be great events to get you started on your networking journey.
There may be a fee to attend an event or join an association that holds events – this is quite common. Also, check the times of meetings. There are a number of meetings that now take place first thing in the morning or in the evening. They may also have some requirements (homework) that you need to complete to return in order to remain in the group.
Find a networking event that works for you and get yourself out there – good luck!
- Business Gateway
- Chamber of Commerce
- Industry specific networks and groups (where do your competitors go?)
- 4 Networking
- Via Social Media Groups (Facebook, LinkedIn etc)
- UK Business Forum