Have you ever walked away from a networking event feeling like you’ve just gone on a crappy speed dating night?
I have many times and it sucks.
Imagine investing time and energy, and maybe money, to go networking and all you’ve got to show for it is a stack of business cards that you have no real interest in doing anything with.
Spend enough time repeating this experience and you’ll eventually arrive at the conclusion that business functions are a waste of time and money.[bctt tweet=”Networking events don’t have to be a waste of time, but you’ve got to have a gameplan.” username=”anferneec”]
If you’re someone who’s wanting to advance yourself in your chosen business or career it’s essential to your success that you get out and about and meet new people. So it’s imperative that you learn to network effectively.
Regardless of whether it’s a conference, seminar, convention, weekly or monthly meetup group, local business group, career networking function, industry expo or other you’ll want to make sure that you devise a game plan ahead of time and stick to it once you arrive at the event.
Even though it’s possible to make connections online through LinkedIn and other social media platforms there’s still tremendous upside to attending live events and real business opportunities can come from networking with the right people face-to-face.[bctt tweet=”Business networking is an investment – treat it as such.” username=”anferneec”]
After all if you’re investing time or money, or both, to get yourself along to an event then it’s in your best interest to maximise the opportunity and not leave the event wondering “where’s the return on investment” right?
Here are 5 tips for getting the most out of any networking event:
1. Set your intention(s) before the event.
Why are you going? What’s the outcome you hope to achieve by attending?
Who is it that you need to meet specifically that will help you move your business forward to the next step? Are you needing a mentor, a business partner, joint venture partner or other?
Notice that I did not say “client”. Amateurs attend networking functions in search of possible clients and it becomes very obvious that they’re only there for themselves.
Ask yourself – “Is my time best spent chatting to other participants at the event or would I best be investing time and energy getting to know the organisers and key influencers?”[bctt tweet=”Amateurs attend networking functions in search of possible clients.” username=”anferneec”]
2. Focus on building relationships, not getting contacts or leads.
“Building real relationships is about investing in them first, figuring out what they want and love, and then helping them get it.” – Ramit Sethi
Once you know who you want to connect with then it’s important to go into the event with the right mindset.
When I learnt to switch my focus from how I could benefit to asking “what’s in it for them?” and how I could possibly add value to the other person things changed. I started to build productive relationships. Not all of them resulted in any immediate business benefit but over time I found the networking experience enjoyable and I could call ask for valuable advice from people far more successful than I was.
Keep in mind here that the value in a relationship is not limited to monetary value. If someone is a key influencer and has a powerful network that you are trying to connect with then building rapport and trust with that person, and helping them achieve their goals could lead to some very favourable situations.
3. Show up as the best version of you.
If you’re a natural introvert like me this is not a green light to go hide in the corner somewhere. What this is referring to is that you want to be relaxed, natural and real when you’re talking to someone. This is particularly important when you’re trying to connect with someone who you might view as “above” you in some way. It’s important to recognise here that they started out as a complete newbie too and that they’re a human being.
Drooling on someone’s shoes is not a great way to start a relationship and earn their respect. If it helps to visualise you and them as friends from way back then do that. Care about them as a person and treat them like one.
I’ll never forget the time that I met a highly regarded teacher in the spiritual self-development world. It was at an event in Maui and he made a guest appearance at our celebration dinner one night. When I made it to the front of the queue to meet him I asked him for a photo and then I stood there like a complete fanboy. I had great difficulty stringing a sentence together! I seriously missed out on a great opportunity that time but it was a valuable learning experience.
Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend recommends the 3-second rule:
The rule is simple: When you see someone interesting to talk to, you have three seconds to walk up and say hello. Wait longer and you’ll either overthink it and screw it up or overthink it and never approach. Not sure what to say? It doesn’t matter. Anything is better than nothing, because it takes you from being a no-name in a sea of faces to being an actual person with a story (who had the courage to say hello). If it’s someone you’ve always wanted to meet, you’ll at least be able to open by thanking them for their work and how it’s impacted you.
4. Diagnose and listen, don’t pitch.
Referring back to tip #2 the idea here is that your job is to listen and ask questions. Leave the elevator pitch at home.
Something I learnt from one of my mentors Jeffery Slayter is that the person who asks the questions in a conversation holds the power. This is not to suggest you ask random questions in an attempt to be powerful.
Act like a doctor and ask questions that will help you understand what’s important to the other person.
- What are their core values?
- Are they all about family?
- Do they love to travel or play sport?
- Do they have pets?
- What challenges are they facing that they could use some help with?
- Who are they looking to connect with?
It may seem odd to consider that these questions have any relevance at all when at a networking event but I would assert that when you can find even one thing to relate to the other person about it builds rapport.[bctt tweet=”The person who asks the questions in a conversation holds the power.” username=”anferneec”]
5. Follow up and follow through.
In the world of business your word is law. Your integrity is valuable currency. If you say you’re going to do something do it.
You also want to follow up within 24-48 hours whilst the memory of your engagement is still fresh in both your minds.
If you follow these tips I’m certain that you’ll see networking in a whole different light and your experience of networking and the benefits it has on your business will also change.
Which of these tips did you find most useful? Have a question or your own tip that you’d like to share? Please post it in the comments below.
- Forbes: Networking – Creating Your Tribe
- Entrepreneur: 7 Tips for Networking
- Forbes: The Professional’s Guide To Networking
- Inc: How I Became The Kind of Person Who Could Work The Room