Networking. It's something the experts just won't shut up about. How do you get that dream job? Networking. With proper networking, you can get the job before it's advertised! What comes up when you type in "best way to get new customers" into Google? Networking. Even articles about "creative ways" to get customers will mention showing off your existing customers or using your existing network. How do you have an existing network? Networking!
It's true what they say, that building up your network can have a massive return. So how do you build it up in the first place? There are a lot of things you can do, and when done right, networking can feel like a full-time job of its own. You can volunteer for community events so people get to know you and your business, which can be especially helpful if you're a local brand. You can join local clubs or the Chamber of Commerce. Or you could try chatting up the rich-looking bloke at your kid's rugby game.
All of those have the chance to have positive results, but statistically, your best chance is most likely attending a professional networking event or specific networking organisations like BNI. Here, people all come with the same purpose; to grow their own network and build long-lasting business relationships. This of course brings a new problem: How do you stand out and find the people? Especially if you're not the most outspoken person in the Southern Hemisphere?
Whether you're a veteran or attending your first event, these 9 professional networking event tips can hopefully help you become a true Worker of the Net.
1. Have a Goal
The first and perhaps most important thing to help make you successful at a networking event is to know why you're going in the first place. What do you want to get out of it? Do you want to meet other people in the same field as you? Other business owners who you can work with? Meet up with some friends and raid the free drinks? Having a goal ahead of time helps you stay focused and know whether or not the event was a success.
2. Make use of your best traits
Are you a charismatic salesperson who can sell a professional butcher a month-old burnt steak? Chat up some people and use your magnetic personality to attract people to you. More on the opposite end? Then you might not want to reserve a time slot where you present in front of the entire crowd with an original dance routine. For some, going out and introducing themselves to random people is natural and easy. For others, it might be better to eventually strike up conversation with someone sitting on a bench on the outskirts; or wait and have someone else start the talking.
3. Go with a bro
Navigating new waters like networking events can be especially tough for a first timer, so it can help to go with a bro to help you sail. This doesn't necessarily have to be someone from your own company either; networking events are a fantastic way to find people with similar interests or even new friends, and going around with a new buddy you met at the snack table can make the whole thing seem a lot less overwhelming.
4. Have your business cards prepared (and up-to-date!)
At a networking event, you're likely to meet a lot of people. And there's a good chance that you'll forget about some of them right after you've met them. You can reduce the chance of this happening to you by carrying business cards and handing them out to people you have a conversation with. Just make sure that they have an updated photo and contact info... You don't want someone tossing your card out later because they can't recognise you or get in contact! Business cards are one of our popular services and something we can take care of for you if you'd like. Simply call us up or contact us and tell us how many you need and if you'd like a new design.
5. Introduce yourself with a fun story
One of the best ways that you can be memorable is by telling a story that resonates. And everybody has something interesting that happened in their lifetime. Did you get your business location because the last occupants were kicked out and you happened to walk past the landlord before he posted an ad? Did you start your company because someone made an off-colour joke about "you should do that for a living" and now you're way more successful than said disbeliever? Use it to your advantage! At networking events, everyone is meeting new people and introducing themselves frequently. So they might not remember your name right away, but might be able to recognise your picture on your business card as "the guy who named his store after his dog".
6. Listen intently
Communication is a two-way process. So don't forget to do half of it! Some people at networking events are always keen to be talking and interrupt everyone with a story of how their kid was 4th best scorer on the football team instead of listening to what others have to say. But listening is just as important. You might find that other attendees have something to offer that you weren't expecting that could be a huge help to you.
7. Prepare an "Elevator Pitch" ahead of time
If you don't know what an elevator pitch is, it's a quick 30-ish second explanation of what you do and how you do it better than anyone else. It's great for when you get stuck in an elevator with someone (hence the name) and only have a very limited time to grab their attention. Practising this ahead of time can make it quick and snappy. Then if someone is interested in that short time, hand them one of your updated business cards and try to make an arrangement to follow-up shortly.
8. Create a plan for follow-ups
Finding that sweet spot for a follow up is a challenge in and of itself. Answering as soon as your contact's door closes seems desperate, and too soon after the event finishes can risk your message getting lost in massive pile of other attendees. But wait too long, and you might be forgotten or all the goodwill and excitement you built up can fizzle out and vaporise. A good standard that many experts recommend is to reach out to your contacts by the end of the next week. But remember to play it by ear; for some, much sooner or much later may be a better option!
9. Have Fun!
The last thing? Don't take the event too seriously. If you go in with the expectation to gain a thousand qualified leads and find new suppliers for all your business needs that have better service and lower prices, you're likely to be disappointed. But if you go in with the hopes of learning something new and meeting new, interesting people, you'll probably find what you're looking for. If your event has any presentations or courses, try to take the time to attend a couple of them--especially if they're at no extra charge!
With a little bit of preparation and a good attitude--and following some of our helpful tips of course--you can go from a net "worker" to a net "boss"!