…and continue those conversations after that first meeting
Once you have decided to go networking, the next decision that you need to make is whether you are going to network locally or attend larger events.
There are so many events you could go to; you could fill your whole calendar, so it’s important to be picky about which ones you go to. You could choose to go to more sector-specific networking events or more local events, both have their pros and cons.
Local events are more likely to be a regular thing, usually weekly, fortnightly or monthly, so it’s important to be reliable and go to every single one. There is little point in only going to one event, or one every couple of months. If you can’t be consistent or commit to attending every event, then you are better off attending the larger one-off events.
It’s very important not just to have time to go to the event itself, but to also have desk time afterwards to make the most of the whole event.
Prior to the networking event
The work starts before you attend. It’s always a great idea to post on social media about the event you are going to and tag in the event organisers. Try to find out if there is an event hashtag – the larger events are more likely to have these – like #jobsatTEAM and #RECExpo. Another great idea is to search these hashtags and see who else is using them and if they are also attending the event. At this point, you could connect with them on LinkedIn – and by doing this you have already started networking before you have even arrived!
If you want to go further, you could write a blog or article about the event or series of events you are going to, as it’s not only good for networking but also good for the SEO side of things on your website as well.
Most smaller networking events will send you an attendance list prior to the event, so you can start networking early. However, you don’t always get that with larger events. If you do receive an attendance list, you can plan in advance who you want to chat to, from current clients to potential future clients. It is also a good idea to pick one or two people you want to engage with beforehand.
Once you are at the event
It’s a must to remember your business cards, and also collect as many as you can, especially from the people you would like to engage with. However, if you have forgotten your business cards, and let’s face it this has happened to most of us at one time or another, it’s a great idea to ask to connect on LinkedIn. It’s even easier to do this within the LinkedIn App by clicking to connect with people nearby, just ensure that you have this setting enabled prior to the event so that you are not fiddling around with your phone when you should be networking.
Another big part of networking is your Elevator pitch. It can quite daunting to stand up and talk about your business in front of a room full of strangers – whilst also being timed – so it’s always a good idea to prep your pitch in advance. Think about what your business does and how you can add value within the room. I like to give a tip of the week within my pitch, this might be a common question that my coaching clients ask or something that has been updated on social media. I usually find this goes down well and I have a lot of nodding heads within the room and many questions after. One thing I dislike is to run out of time, so I will tweak my pitch and time it the night before. I personally like to walk into the event and feel prepared. However, everyone has their own way of doing things and you will find the way that suits you best. One thing I did early on was play around with my pitch and see what worked best for myself and the people I am regularly networking with.
Also, on the day, it’s a must to get photos! It can be difficult to get your phone out at the smaller networking events and snap pics of what is going on around you, but you can still get engagement from those cheesy selfies outside the building the nice view, or the large breakfast that you ate! The larger events are much easier to get ‘snap happy’; you can take pictures of all sorts: the speakers, the venue, the people at the event, some more cheesy selfies and a video at the event too!
After the event
So, the event is over and you are back at the office, what do you do next? The networking doesn’t end there. First of all, make use of those fantastic photos that you took, you need to get them posted as soon as possible to keep the buzz around the event. Please ensure that you tag the right people/businesses into your posts, so that you can get further engagement, still remembering to use any hashtags that are relevant to the event!
It’s a great idea to write notes on the people you have spoken to at the event so that when you go back to the office, you aren’t wracking your brain on what you spoke about to each person, even if it’s a quick scribble on a business card, it can avoid any embarrassment when you come to email them later.
I also tend to block out time when I get back to the office so that I am able to email or contact anyone that I said I would, sending over details about services or quotes that have been asked about. I will connect with people on LinkedIn that I haven’t already connected with. This is a routine that I’ve made and I stick to it now.
The only thing left to say is, networking can be so much fun and a really sociable experience, and you get to meet so many people from so many different businesses. It has taken me a few months, but I really enjoy networking now. So, go forth and network like a pro!!