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If you’re just starting out with networking, it can take time to feel totally comfortable with it. It’s a bit like riding a bike: at first, it can be a bit scary, but once you know what you’re doing, there’s no looking back.
Here are some great tips to help you get the most out of a networking event:
The first thing to do is some research on the right groups to attend.
What is that you want to get out of an event? Is it new suppliers? To get to know other local businesses better? Or something else entirely.
Once you know your goals, it’s time to have a look what’s out there. A quick Google such as ‘business networking groups near X’ should give you some initial results with dates and the name of the events.
Keep track of the events that are of interest to you. You could create a mini database on an excel spreadsheet if you really want to geek out!
If you need a bit more info, or aren’t sure it’s for you, why not call up the organiser to inquire about the types of businesses who usually attend to see if it’s worthwhile you going?
Once you’ve decided it’s for you and booked onto an event, do a bit of research as to who’s speaking and attending, so you can put a bit of a plan together about who you’d like to speak to.
An easy way to do this is to have a look on event’s website to see who will be there. Then you can check out their Linkedin profiles, company website etc. to get a feel for what they do.
All of this can give you a few ways to spark up a conversation. Perhaps they posted something up recently that was interesting - that’s always a good way to get things flowing. Maybe their business is doing some great work with the local community that recently got coverage in the local press. They will be flattered that you have taken an interest.
Once you are at the event, all attendees will be given a name badge. This means you will know exactly who the people you want to speak to are.
Many networking events won’t require a pre-arranged pitch. They’re generally a pretty relaxed affair. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know what to say.
Be clear in your head about what your business does, the benefit it brings and what you’re aiming to achieve. Have a read of our elevator pitch blog - this will help you put together a quick pitch about your business so you’re fully prepared.
Remember not to take an actual script to the event - you want to be natural! Don’t worry if this is your first time speaking to people in this way. Practise makes perfect and the more you do it the more confident you will become.
A mistake many people make when they attend networking events is that they go only thinking about what they can get out of it. So, don’t jump straight in and talk about how great your business is without letting the other person speak first!
Ask about their business and what they do. Show interest and engage with them. This also gives you time to think about whether there are opportunities to work together or help each other out in the future.
The more you listen to someone, the more they will want to hear about what you do. We all like it when someone appreciates us. Take this lesson and apply it. This could help you establish some good contacts for the future.
Your short intro to your business should have helped spark conversations around what you do, but remember, you’re speaking to another human, so having a chat about things other than your day job and what you’re working on is good too. You’re there to have fun as well as talk shop!
Why is this important? Because you can get to know people in a normal setting beyond agendas. It might help you strike up a rapport with someone who could be useful down the line!
You’re going to meet lots of people at the event, so it’s a good idea to come armed with plenty of business cards so you can pass on your contact details. If you don’t have business cards then there are some great places online where you can design your own, for pretty cheap.
Remember to add your name, email address, contact number and your business logo too with a link to your website, if you have one.
So, the event is over. You’ve exchanged cards with people, now is the time to follow up. You shouldn’t expect them to connect with you first (even though it’s nice if they do).
You could add them on Linkedin, with a message to remind them of who you are and how nice it was to meet them.
Take the initiative and send a follow-up email to anyone you met that you’d like to continue networking with.