How can you get the most out of your next in-person networking event?
Local business networking groups can be a powerful tool to generate leads — if you walk into the room armed with a plan. On the downside, they can also be a pretty large commitment, expensive, and time consuming.
So how can you make your efforts in networking groups pay off?
Networking is about more than just showing up at events; it is about establishing lasting personal connections.
Bring a pen and don’t be afraid to use it.
Walking into a room full of strangers for the first time is tough. You won’t remember the names and professions of everyone you meet unless you are prepared. Take business cards, write notes on them. Have a system for remembering who you spoke to, and who you should follow up with. Try to remember the details about their business and their interests for when you follow-up. Details matter.
Have something amazing to say about your business. You will probably have the opportunity to stand up and talk about your business at some point during the session. Make the most of it! Have a specific offer or ask for the people in the room. Think about seasonal opportunities that might resonate with your audience. If others have spoken before you, listen carefully to what they are saying and try to articulate how your services might meet a need for them. If you simply stand up and say your name and rattle of a few facts about what you do, you might miss your chance at a real connection.
Participate Often at networking meetings there is a “featured” speaker or a presenter. If there is the opportunity, make your voice heard during this session. When appropriate, ask thoughtful questions and volunteer if help is needed. If you encourage people to see you as a confident participant in the session, they will be more likely to engage with you in the future or approach you with their professional needs. You will also be more likely to be invited to speak at a future session.
Show up I have been guilty of this one. I decide to take the leap and check out a group, go once, and never went back. What a waste of time. You need to consistently show up, connect with colleagues, refer their businesses when relevant – and that takes time. Definitely give a group a few visits before deciding it isn’t right for you. You never know who you will meet or what you might learn.
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Do your homework Your networking doesn’t end when you walk out of the meeting. When you get home make sure to do your follow up.
- Connect with the people that you met on LinkedIn
- Write personal notes or emails – “nice to meet you” with ideas for potential partnerships when the timing is right
- Like their businesses social media profiles to show support and engage with their pages