Business networking can have many excellent benefits to yourself and your business. They are a great way to build new connections and to meet potential customers. But they do take up precious time so it is important to make the most of each event you attend.
We have put together 15 tips to help you make the most out of business networking events.
Have a game plan for attending events
You make business plans and marketing plans so why not have a networking plan? Outline your objectives for attending networking events, work out your target networking audience and decide on the type of events you want to attend.
This will give you a much better idea of what type of events you want to attend and what you want to get out of them. A good aim for any event is to learn something new but you will also want to have clear objectives to benefit your business.
How you can help?
Consider what you can bring to an event. People often attend networking events and focus on what help they can get. That is okay but also bear in mind what value you can offer to other people.
Be willing to engage in conversations, share ideas and opinions and look for other ways you can be helpful. It will help you become a valuable member of the networking group and it will increase the value of your connections.
Bring business cards
Some might say they are old-school but business cards are a networking essential. Don't leave the office without a good supply of business cards. They are still the fastest way to share who you are and how you can be contacted.
Business cards are even a good ice breaker at events. They act as a prop that can help kick start a conversation. Make sure you always have business cards at a networking event.
Set a target of networking events
The first tip was to have a networking plan. To take that a step further you should have a goal for the number of events you attend and make sure you stick to it. Business owners live busy lives so it can be very easy to skip a networking event as the date approaches, but that does you no good in the long run.
Set the number of events you want to attend each month and then hit that number. If you struggle to hit your goal try and tie the number of events to another business metric. If you want to create more leads then tie the number of events to leads created. If you identify you get two leads from every event and want 8 networking leads a month, then you have a goal for the number of events.
Meet new people
One of the biggest benefits of networking events is the ability to meet new people. So take every opportunity you can to meet new people. A big part of that is don't dismiss anyone because they don't fit your target audience. You never know who they know or what value they can add.
Find a group of events
Not every networking event is going to be a good fit for you. Plus you'll never be able to attend all the events out there. So, find a group of events that work best for you and then attend them regularly.
Initially, that might involve attending lots of different events to find out what works well for you.
That is why having a networking plan is so useful, you can use it to determine if an event is useful to you or not. I'd recommend attending one event 3 times before deciding whether to keep going or not.
Meet people in other industries
Networking is about meeting new people and getting new ideas. A great way to do that is to attend events in other industries from your own. Not only will it help you reach a brand new audience than you have before it will also help you grow your connections.
Network with your customers
There is a lot to be said for spending time where your customers are. So put yourself where your customer is. Connect with your customers on their home turf. It is a great way to better understand them and their business.
If you can better understand their motivations and their pain points you can start designing better marketing and even adjust your products to better fit their needs.
Ask for introductions
Be proactive when trying to find connections and events. People you already know can be a great resource for meeting new people. Don't ever be afraid to ask because people are often willing to help.
Connect on topics outside of business
They might be business events but that doesn't mean you have to talk about business all the time. It's much easier to build meaningful connections and relationships when you connect with people on a level deeper than business.
Make the first move
Don't wait for people to come to you. It can be a struggle for some but you will not get anywhere standing in a corner waiting for people to come to you. Make the first move and try to talk to as many people as you can.
Start breaking the ice with as many people as you can and then you will start to grow the number of connections you are making. You'll be amazed at how quickly you make new friends and learn things by being the first to reach out.
Don’t expect results straight away
If you are going to your first networking event and are expected to get a boat full of leads, then you need to think again. While you won't get instant results from networking don't get discouraged and keep going.
As long as you know you have the right people in the room then the results will come. You will often find that the most valuable leads come from people who remembered you from an event and recommended you to someone else.
Practice makes perfect
Most people will be nervous about attending their first events. Networking does take practice, that is another advantage of attending lots of events. The more you do it the better you become at it.
Networking is not a cold-call. Don't go straight for the sale or you will waste a potential connection. Focus on building relationships and being able to add value to those relationships.
Whenever meeting some new ask yourself 'how can I help them'. By making it about them and not you, you will be building stronger connections that will lead to working relationships.
Stay in touch
Keep in contact with people outside of networking events. Must events happen once a month, or once a quarter. If you wait for an event to talk to someone it will take a long time to build that relationship.
By staying in touch outside of events you can grow the relationship. By waiting for the next network meeting you might miss a time when they are in a pain you can solve. Keep in contact and keep building your connections outside of networking events.
It is important to remember that you won't see results straight away. Networking is about building relationships not selling from the get-go. Don't be disheartened if you don't see results straight away.
Follow the tips you have read in this article and stick with and you're sure to start seeing results come from business networking.