Marmite. They say we either love it or hate it. The same can be said for networking. Whether you like it or not though, the truth is that if you’re serious about promoting your business, networking is key. According to Robert Kiyosaki,
“The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work.”
I’m personally a big fan of networking as I’ve seen the many benefits that it’s brought to my business, and that’s why I’d love to share my experiences and top tips for getting the most from a networking event.
Why is networking so important for your business?
This list could be never-ending but in a nutshell…people buy from people. They always have and they always will. Simple!
When setting out in business it’s important to start out on the right track early on, and that means getting into the habit of attending regular networking events. The earlier you get into the habit, the easier it will be.
We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’. More importantly, it’s about who knows you!
No matter how many clients you have, consistently marketing your business and brand is imperative. We should never be complacent with the number of clients we have and having a pipeline of contacts and leads can mean the difference of being in business for one year or ten.
If you’re a soloprenuer, you represent your business and your brand, so how you come across at events is crucial. First impressions count, so if people ‘like you’, they’ll trust you and be more inclined to remember you and want to do business with you in the future.
Being a business owner can be extremely isolating and lonely, so getting out of the office is always a good idea. Networking events are a great way to break up your week and meet new people.
Where is the best place to network? Face-to-face or online?
Networking opportunities are vast so picking the right one is important. If you’re new to networking try a small local event or go with a colleague or friend for moral support. When you build more confidence you can start to network further afield.
Networking online can be just as beneficial as traditional face to face networking. Again, like in-person events, there are many social media platforms to choose from. Make sure you’re on the platforms where your audience hangs out and when you engage with others online be real and genuine with your words – just like you would in ‘the real world’.
Top tips for attending a networking event
Before the Event
Have a Goal
As a business owner using your time wisely is crucial, so knowing why you’re going and what your goals are is really important. Picking two outcomes you’d like to get out of the event will ensure you stay focused.
As they say, ‘if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail’ so make sure you know where the venue is and give yourself plenty of time to arrive. Research the group you’re attending in advance. Wearing something you’re comfortable and familiar with will also ensure you act and feel more confident. If your outfit reflects your personality and represents your brand then even better. Bring more business cards than you think you’ll need, and keep a stack of them in a card case so they don’t get dirty or crumpled.
It’s a good idea to run through some scenarios of what people might ask you and have some prepared responses. Having a positive mindset before you leave for the event is crucial and will ensure you stay upbeat.
During the Event
A staggering 93% of all communication is non-verbal so what you don’t say really does matter! Having a confident handshake accompanied by a big and genuine smile can really make a positive difference. When talking to people, mirroring their body language and making eye contact will help you connect with them.
Having a 60-second pitch which includes who you are and what you do will come in really handy at any networking event. Don’t over practice and just be your natural self. People want to get to know the real you and not be sold to. I like to share a useful top tip in mine which gives me something to talk about later and makes people remember me. Most of the time if they like you, they’ll think of you in the future when they (or someone they know) needs your services.
“A networking event is a farmer event, not a hunter event. You’re there to plant seeds and cultivate your garden, not bag prey.”Sandy Jones
Don’t give out your business card unless asked. Many events have a place you can leave some for people to pick up.
Listen to other members introductions and gravitate towards three people who are of interest to you and your business. Ask yourself, can they support you? Can you support them? Could they be a potential client in the future or recommend your services?
‘Give’ support and don’t try to ‘sell’ to people. As Bob Burg explains, “The single greatest people skill is a highly developed and authentic interest in the other person.”
Let the other person speak first. This gives you an opportunity to ask them questions, build a rapport and you will find that they’ll be much more relaxed and focused when the conversation turns to you.
After the Event
Always follow up with everyone you had a meaningful conversation with and connect with them on their social media platforms. This is extremely important as it takes time to build relationships, so if people see your content online they’ll get to know you faster and better.
Finally, don’t put pressure on yourself to ‘connect’ or swap details with everyone in the room. That’s often not possible and quality is always better than quantity. I attend a mixture of events with some being focussed more on support and others are more inspiring and reflective. I really like events that are more informative with guest speakers and I learn something new. Finding the type of event that resonates with you is something that will happen over time after you attend a variety of different events.
At the end of the day, be proud of yourself for attending the event, and have fun, and who knows, meeting just one person could change the direction of your whole business.