Keep these 12 tips in mind at your next networking event and see if you don’t start to see a huge increase in overall networking effectiveness.
I attend a lot of networking events as a young entrepreneur.
Most of them are local networking events put on by the chamber of commerce, young professionals organizations, or any other number of community events that I think might be good exposure for me or seedling company.
There is a time and place for the cold call or pressure pitch, but effective networking involves so much more than trying to perfect your sales pitch or make your next sale in a room full of other business people.
Networking is all about building real life relationships and creating credibility in the brand of you! Social networking is good but real world networking is still the real king. At least for a little while longer.
So if you are someone who is always looking to learn more, meet new people and build your personal network, then here are 12 tips that are field tested and battle approved to help you generate more leads at your next networking event.
1. Work the room
I know first hand how cliquey these things can get, so make sure you aren’t just showing up to talk to friends.
You want to make sure you are moving from conversation to conversation and group to group in order to meet as many new people as possible.
I’m not saying you can’t stop and chat with friends, clients, and other familiar faces but you should make sure you introduce yourself to a few new people at each event and make sure to make it around the whole room at least once.
2. Quit selling for a few hours
It wont take long to start being avoided like the plague if you go to networking events with the intent of selling people every time you talk to them.
Make it a point to get to know people and find out about what they do.
Be sure to ask a lot of questions. People always love to talk about themselves. What better way to make a five minute friend then to let them tell you everything about what they do.
3. Set a goal
Before the event you should have an idea in your mind of how many new people you want to talk to but be realistic.
Under no circumstances are you allowed to just walking around, randomly handing cards to everyone you see. Maybe meeting one person is an accomplishment for you. Good. Now you know. Start there and then work your way up as your networking ninja skills start to progress.
4. Talk to a stranger
You can see them wandering around aimlessly at almost every networking event.
Maybe you have even been that awkward person who is trying this networking thing out for the first time yourself.
Don’t be afraid to go up and talk to a random stranger, introduce yourself to someone new or pull someone in to your little group conversation. A friendly gesture like this goes a long way in the new persons eyes and is a signal of leadership to those around you!
5. Sometimes one is plenty
Just because you have a plan to meet a few new people doesn’t mean that if you meet one top level prospect you have to disengage from them in order to continue networking.
You should continue every conversation with anyone you think might be a good contact for you to make, even if it means chatting with them the entire event. You never know when you are going to hit it off with your next new client, referral source or heck, maybe even a new friend.
6. Keep a hit list
You should always have a number of top prospects in mind and know what they look like in case you get a chance to bump in to them at a networking event.
I’m not telling you to stalk anyone, that would be weird. But you won’t find a much better setting to approach someone you are interested in meeting than at an event where people are supposed to meet other people.
It is especially valuable if you have tried to reach out and contact them before. Maybe you have tried the old school unannounced visit at his office, a lead letter, email or a phone call but have not been able to get through. The networking event is a perfect setting to help them put a face to the name and possibly drive them to answer the next time you call.
7. Break up a clique
Don’t be afraid to approach the person you want to introduce yourself to, even if they are in a group talking to other people.
I’m not suggesting you to walk up and interrupt, and you should use your judgement when you think people might be having a private or personal conversation, but it would not be out of line for you to walk up, join their circle, and when appropriate introduce yourself.
8. Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself
If you are talking to someone and you feel the conversation is going nowhere or does not give you the opportunity to interject then don’t hesitate to excuse yourself and move on to the next conversation. After all, not everyone you want to meet, wants to meet you, especially if they are engaged in an intense conversation or chatting up one the people on their own hit list.
There is no reason to stand around in a group of people trying to meet someone if they are intentionally ignoring you or just leaving you out of the conversation. Walk away and meet someone else but don’t give up on them, you might just have to find a better time to approach.
9. To drink or not to drink?
Me? I like to enjoy a brew almost anywhere, especially after work at a social networking event.
There is nothing wrong with having a couple drinks, but make sure you don’t cross that line. You know the line I am talking about.
Take it from a guy who’s made that mistake for you, try not to make an idiot of yourself in front of all these new people you have been working so hard to meet.
10. Be selective
There is such a thing as a serial networker.
You can easily fill your entire calendar with any number of networking groups, breakfast clubs, networking lunches and after hours events. It’s ok to explore different networking opportunities but focus your attention on the ones that actually give you an opportunity to network with people who can increase your overall influence and social reach.
11. Know the staff
Get to know the people that organize the events. The chamber staff, the committee volunteers, board members or anyone else that helps organize the networking events. They will be invaluable to you if you decide to get more involved or ever have any questions at an event. They are always willing to help and they usually know everyone in the room.
Not to mention it doesn’t hurt that you were nice to them when they are sitting around deciding which pictures make it in their monthly newsletter, magazine or Facebook page!
12. Follow up
Always make sure you follow up with any prospect you meet at a networking event. There’s a reason your contact information is on a business card.
Be sure to send a personalized email to everyone you met at the networking event. I always include a mention of anything we talked about, an invitation to meet for coffee or lunch. I close the email with a link to my website or a recent article from my blog and then take it from there.
Under no circumstances does meeting someone at a networking event and getting their email off a business card authorize you to add them to your email lists!
There is no better way to ensure that your email will be ignored than if you immediately start spamming someone.
Just be yourself, have fun and dont be shy. Think of it like this. You are actually doing someone a favor by approaching them because it saves them the trouble of having to come to you.