How many of you are comfortable walking into a room full of unfamiliar faces? Not many, yet networking is essential for growing your business or helping your career. When looking to expand your personal network, take the time to find the right event to attend. Whether it is a breakfast meeting, a speaker luncheon, cocktail reception, or black tie dinner be sure to prepare ahead of time. If you put in the time and effort to prepare, your commitment and cost investment will pay off. Below are a few tips to help you get started:
- Prepare ahead of time. Before the event, reach out to the event organizer and ask for an attendee list. Google the attendees or look them up on LinkedIn. Narrow the list down to a few target individuals that you want to meet. Jot down a few key facts about them. See if you have any mutual connections. This will not only help you remember their name at the event but is also a great conversation starter. Also, don’t forget to bring your business cards!
- Know your goals. What do you plan on getting out of this event? Are you trying to target new clients or prospective customers? Set a few goals for yourself ahead of time, whether it is meeting 3 out of 5 of your targeted prospects. Do your best to achieve them before the event is over.
- Arrive early. If you are attending a large event, try to get there early. This will give you the opportunity to network with a smaller group of people before the room fills up. Additionally, most attendees will be in a rush to get home or back to the office as soon as the event is over. If you are trying to connect with a few specific people, do it first thing.
- Build existing relationships. While networking events provide the perfect opportunity to meet new people, you do not want to neglect older relationships either. Is there someone in attendance who you have been trying to do business with for a while? Spend some time catching up with them as well and see if their needs have changed. Be sure to divide up your time evenly between meeting new people and catching up with familiar faces.
- It is better to give than receive. When you meet people for the first time, find out what is important to them. Offer to connect them with someone that may be helpful for their company or career. Don’t look to get something from this person, but spend the time building a true relationship. This will pay off down the road.
- Follow up. After you have done the hard work of preparing ahead of time and meeting with your targeted prospects, the most important thing you need to do is follow up with them. Block off an hour or so on your calendar the day after the event to send out follow-up emails to those you met the night before. This is something that can make or break the formation of a new relationship.
To some people, networking events can feel like a chore rather than an opportunity to generate new business. With the right strategy and game plan, you never know what doors may open.
I would like to thank Caroline Ryder for preparing this article with me. Caroline is a Marketing Analyst with C2G Resourcing, a subsidiary of Consultants 2 Go, LLC. Don’t forget, you can email me at Peggy@Consultants2Go.com with any questions you might have and I’ll be glad to answer them. You can also follow me and my business on Twitter @peggymchale and @consultants2go