There are all types of networking events available in most major cities that you can take advantage of. At these events you will meet new people, start developing new relationships and ultimately discover if what you have to offer is something the other person wants or needs.
Developing relationships takes time but so important. So choose networking events that you feel most comfortable with and expand as you get more comfortable in a networking forum.
Types of Networking Events:
There are networking events that are exclusive which you become a member of and those you pay per event. There are networking events per industry, age group, cultural, religious beliefs, open categories, gender specific and more.
There are events that are very structured, where the networking is managed by a facilitator and those that are free flowing and informal. Some meet in the morning, some for lunch or dinner and others meet at bars, restaurants, someone’s home or community spaces.
Personally, I prefer the informal format. The type of location doesn’t matter to me but must be within a 30 minute drive from my home. The informal format allows me more time to connect with someone and see if there’s an opportunity for a more in-depth conversation. I feel more authentic as the conversation moves back and forth effortlessly rather than spewing out a canned elevator pitch. And I can work a room the way I want and move with the informal flow of the room.
Right now, I lean towards events that are co-ed with both men and women networking. Although my products are targeted mostly to women, I find networking events with both men and women in attendance are much more productive, less cliquish, and more purposeful.
After many, many events, here are my top tips that I follow before, during and after a networking event to make it worthwhile for me to attend.
1. Eat something before you arrive at the event, so you are fueled and ready to make connections.
2. Carry a least 25 business cards and a pen into the event. Have both readily accessible in your handbag or pocket.
3. Dress appropriately for the event. I don’t believe in overdressing for an event. You stand out too much and become less approachable. If it’s a casual event, dress casually smart. If it’s a more business formal event, wear something that you will blend in with the crowd. But most importantly, wear comfortable shoes because most of the time you will be standing unless a meal is served at the event.
4. Know your energy level and respect it. This is something you will discover about yourself as you attend more and more networking events. For instance, I’m able to connect with others full out for about two hours at an informal event and then I hit a wall and it’s time for me to leave. And I leave.
5. Get there early. If the event starts at 6pm, be at the door at 5:45pm. Start connecting with people waiting in line, if there’s a line. It’s so much easier to start talking with people when you and a few others are the only ones there than trying to step into a group of people who are already talking.
6. NO ALCOHOL. Stay ever present. Although it may seem social, its business!
7. Always, always, always start by asking the other person about themselves, their business and what their needs are. Can you provide a resource for them?
8. When you have the opportunity to share about your business, keep it broad and high level to peek interests. If someone wants more detail information about your business, swap business cards and set up a time to talk further. You’re there to connect with as many people as possible. You want to keep moving.
9. Be selective. If there’s no chemistry happening between you and another person, MOVE ON. Time is ticking.
10. People will remember you when you are genuinely interested in them and are more likely to help you after you help them.
11. As you exchange biz cards, ask when is a good time to call or follow up. Let the other person tell you what’s good for them and make a note on their business card.
12. After each connection, I write a few notes on their card to remind me of our conversation. I cannot express how important this is…this one tip helps my memory immensely. It allows me to pick up right where we left off when I FOLLOW UP.
13. Once home, immediately I pull out all the business cards I’ve collected and make any other note on the card that will help me recall our conversation. I sort them into priority calls to make the following day.
14. I start making calls the next day…’because time is of the essence. My goal is to connect with everyone whose business card I have within 5 business days of the event. Anything longer than that and it becomes …out of sight, out of mind. I leave messages and if I don’t hear back from them, I wait a week then place another call.
15. I also connect with them on Facebook and send a private message.
The Power of Relationships
I’ve read that 95% of people you meet at a networking event do not follow up with who they met! And I can attest to that. It’s so rare that I receive a follow up call from anyone I’ve met at a networking event. But I follow up. I make the calls. I meet people for coffee. I connect with people on Facebook with a private message. I want people to get to know me and so do you. You want people to know you’re for real and a person who can provide resources to them as well as find out if what you have will be of benefit to them.
Building relationships takes time, but the power of relationships ultimately pays off greatly.
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