Welcome to the 6th episode of Smart Brand Marketing with Tom Libelt.
My guest this week is Darrah Brustein. She is the founder of Network under 40. We chat about how someone can organize a networking event without having a big network and what a person should and shouldn’t do when attending one.
Picking The Right Networking Events and Why it Matters
There are many ways to expand on your business’s reach but not a lot of them could compare to what a networking event can do for you and your business. Attending a networking event can be seemingly an important task for you as either the business owner or manager as it allows you to catch up with your contacts, establish new ones, and learn new things that can help your business.
However, there is this one glaring problem with networking events: where should you go to? The answer to that will depend on you but, first, let’s look at a few important aspects to picking the right networking event for you.
Why it’s Okay to Skip on a Few Networking Events
Here’s a secret: you don’t have to do networking at all. In fact, a lot of successful entrepreneurs managed to establish their businesses without having to jump at every networking opportunity they encounter.
Depending on your case, there are several perfectly valid reasons why you should not really devote much of your time to attending networking events.
- 1. You’re Better Off Building Your Customer BaseHere’s the thing about networking: it’s all about making friends and building relationships. Know what it isn’t? Making money. Always remember that every second you spent not earning money for the business is a second wasted which is why it’s best that you increase your business’s potential to earn money first before doing all of your networking.Look at Mark Zuckerberg, for example. The dude’s so introverted that he met a maximum of 10 people when building what would become Facebook during his time at Harvard. Today, especially since Facebook has become this multi-billion dollar platform, every bigwig, politician, and person whose name is worth a damn is flocking into his network. As a matter of fact, Zuck tends to draw in more than 50% of the crowd that attend any event he goes into.
- 2. You Don’t Have the Time for ItAny entrepreneur knows that time is a rather finite resource when running a business. Most of the time, it’s less of a 9 to 5 affair and more 24/7. Since you will be devoting most of your time to running the business, how much time do you have left to do constant networking? Not a lot.Of course, there is a counter to that argument since you can delegate your networking activities. However, the question is would you also want to pull off people from their work just so they can meet potential contacts for you? If your business is on crunch time, the answer to that is a definite no.
- 3. It Can Often be RedundantNetworking events are all about meeting new contacts. However, what happens if you go to every networking event in your area? Chances are that you will be meeting the same group of people over and over again until you talk about the same things. Soon enough, every networking event starts to feel like a night out with your buddies at the pub.The point here is that every networking event should be an opportunity for you to learn new things and expand your influence in the market. If you are not doing that in every event that you go to, then there’s really not much point to the entire affair.
To Go or Not to Go?
So will every networking event you go to be a waste of your time? Not really. At this point, you should pick and choose where you want to go in order to maximize the results of you being there.
To determine if a networking event is worth your time, you must answer these four questions.
- 1. Who’s Going There?If possible, ask around and find out who are going that event aside from you. What you should be looking for are people who you have yet to meet or, at most, possess enough influence and clout to help you advance your business goals.Also, look for other organizations that are attending that event or sponsoring it. These groups are networks on their own so making connections with them should allow you to expand on your network to a considerable degree. If none of these are present in that event, then it’s best not to attend it.
- 2. Can You Actually Network There?One thing to remember about networking events is that not all of them will actually let you network on your time. There are a lot of events out there that either focus too much on banquets or packed with too many sessions that you can’t carry out personal exchanges with other people there.If you can’t help but go to an event that is jam-packed with too many activities, your only solution here is to arrive there early and do your networking while the event has yet to start. Once the event is over, linger around for at least an hour and talk to other delegates there. This first to arrive, last to leave strategy should help you make the most of your time there.
- 3. Is it Comfortable for You to Be There?Ask yourself this question, can you sense a hint of dread in your being whenever you are invited to an event? This is a telltale sign that you are either worn out from attending events or are expecting to meet the same group of people as in the last events.If you really want to expand your perspectives or stand out from the crowd, try going to events that cover subjects that you have yet to encounter or activities you have yet to take part in. The chances of you actually making an impact will be higher in situations that are new to you.
For instance, you are an IT specialist and you attend a Cybercrime seminar filled with politicians and lawyers. You might not be able to match those people in matters of politics or the law but your expertise in computer technologies and social media should allow you to put yourself in a valuable position for these people. The point here is that you have better chances of doing networking when you step out of your comfort zone.
Making the Most of Your Presence
Supposed that you’ve decided to go to this event. What now? Planning and preparation are the key to making your presence in any networking event impactful. Here’s how:
Prior to the Event
For starters, you need to do your homework regarding the event. Find out what topics are going to be discussed there and come up with at least 5 talking points that you can use to start a conversation there. Don’t worry about being corrected by people who know more of the topic than you at the event. If you know how to deliver any line without sounding like a tool, then you should make friends there.
Next, prepare a lot of business cards beforehand. Your business card is your primary line of communication with your contacts after the event so have at least 20 produced before the event and place them in your pockets.
Lastly, choose what you will wear. Dressing appropriately can make for a good impression with your potential contacts and might just help them make that call to you. Of course, you’d have to find out what the event organizers are expecting that their delegates will be wearing in that event. After all, it can be a bit awkward when everyone is on their casual attire while you look like you’ve just stepped out of a Great Gatsby party.
The Event Proper
First and foremost, don’t stalk around the place looking for people to talk to like you’re some lion looking for a gazelle to pounce on. Instead, move in your own pace. Whether you wait for someone to talk to you or politely introduce yourself to a stranger. If you’re a wallflower, practice beforehand introducing yourself to other people.
Also, make it a point to call people by their first name. This is not a rude thing to do in networking events as delegates are required to place their name tags where everybody can see them. Plus, calling people by their preferred name tends to make them more comfortable which talking to you.
It is here that your social skills will come in handy so freshen up on the basics. Don’t rudely interrupt someone who’s talking by interjecting your own story. Instead, learn to listen and talk only if it’s your turn.
It would also be important that you try not to sound like a salesman at this point. You’re trying to make friends, not close a deal, so talk like you want to be their friend.
When a session is going on, it is best that you refrain from doing any networking. Every other person in that room would be focuses on whatever the person in front is saying. It just makes sense that you don’t interrupt them by talking about something else.
Finally, don’t leave someone mid-conversation especially if you spot a friend nearby. Let the conversation end properly and learn how to excuse yourself out. Of course, never forget to offer them your business card.
The Follow Up
Every networking event should have helped you meet new contacts but your networking doesn’t end there. What you would do immediately after the event will also matter.
- Take InventoryAfter every event, take the time to go through everything you have received there be it a book, a pamphlet, or a business card. Which of these will help you improve on your business and which ones can help you set up another meeting with that contact? Filter what is important from what is not and hold on to those items for as long as you can.
- Strike While the Iron is HotIf possible, contact those people you’ve met within a week after the event. The reason for this is that the experience is relatively new to them which means they can still recall vividly every person they met and every topic they have discussed. For instance, calling a contact 3 days after the event will be easier for you as that person can still recall you and they can still remember what you were discussing with them.This should also be an opportunity for you to continue from where you ended and talk about other things. This might range from business opportunities or even topics related to what the event just covered. Of course, you should thank them for the time. Not only is this polite, it makes you look friendlier to that person.
- Connect the PointsWhat if, say, someone you met at that event was looking for a person to hire and you have someone you know that can fill that requirement? This is the time for you to connect each of your contacts with one another. The model for your network should not be this pinwheel of sorts where everyone just connects to the central contact i.e. you. Instead, it should be this spider’s web of connections where every contact person knows one another.This will turn your network from a group of acquaintances into a community that supports itself. Of course, helping contacts connect with each other will secure your position in that community by making you a vital contact person as with everybody else.
To Wrap Things Up…
So, if it’s rather pointless for you to go in every network event, does that mean that doing network is generally pointless as a whole? Not really. The point of choosing where you should go for your networking is to prevent you from spreading yourself too thin to the point that you get turned off from networking altogether. Choose where your presence is going to make the most impact and you should be able to make the most out of your networking efforts, whatever they may be.
Have you felt burned out from doing too much networking? How did you decide on which events you should go to and which ones to avoid? Let us know in the comments section down below.
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