10 ways to get the most from in-person networking
Networking in person can be daunting, especially if you’re used to running your business primarily online. But the element of human interaction in person can make all the difference when you’re growing your business.
I really enjoy networking and going to networking events. I’ve made many a new connection, client, and friends, and find the connection so much easier in person that I do online.
However, I recently attended a networking event, and it was painful, to say the least. There was a sense of awkwardness in the air and people were barely talking to one another. I approached people, asked them questions about their businesses, their families etc. I left the conversation knowing where their kids went to school, yet they left not even knowing my name.
And this experience brings me on to my first tip if you’re new to networking…
Show a sincere interest in others
One of the biggest mistakes I see being made is that people are so focussed on telling others about themselves, they forget to ask about the other person. Of course, we’re all there to make connections and get leads but this ‘salesy’ approach leaves most feeling flat. People will remember how you made them feel and so asking them about themselves and being genuinely interested in their answers will make them feel good. Not only this, but you’re likely to stumble upon quite a few things you have in common. Networking is an opportunity to find out if people need your help, or if you need theirs, but remembering that opportunity can appear in many guises will help you navigate better. Taking an approach of ‘what can I give?’ rather than ‘what can I get?’ will not only help if you’re feeling nervous, but also allow you to plant seeds of genuine connection amongst those you meet.
Choose the right sort of networking event
If you’re looking to solely promote your business and get referrals, you’ll want to attend a ‘hard’ networking event. The expectation at these events is that you’re there to talk business and share referrals. ‘Soft’ networking is a chance to meet new people and grow your connections without the ‘hard sell’. So, try both and work out what suits you best. What type of event that suits you might also depend on the time of day it’s held, or even the format of the meetings – or even the host!
Add some personality to your elevator pitch
Some networks will have a slot for you to give your elevator pitch – usually 60 seconds to tell everyone in the room all about what you do. Think about your ideal client and who you love to work with. I’m guessing they’re going to be people who share your values, your sense of humour, and possibly your taste in books or films (although I have a standing joke with one of my best friends about how our tastes in films differ so much I don’t know how we’re even friends!). How will you find out these details unless you show your personality? Yes, it’s important to have a succinct elevator pitch, but adding a pinch of personality will make you more memorable and relatable and attract the right people.
Get your hands on a copy of the attendee list
This may not be feasible in every situation but it’s worth asking the organisers if you can have a list of names. That way you can pinpoint exactly who you want to talk to and why. Doing a bit of research on LinkedIn will put you in a great position to start relevant conversations with those you know you’d love to work with. And when you arrive at the event, don’t be afraid to ask the organiser to introduce you to those you want to talk to.
Networking can be nerve-racking for some, so my advice is to prepare. Get your elevator pitch nailed, have some key questions to ask (see below) and prepare a few key talking points about yourself. You may want to talk about why you’re at the event, what you’re hoping to gain, and have a great client success story in your back pocket.
Having a rough idea of what you’re going to say in advance will help no end. You need to make sure you get people chatting because the more you find out about them, the more chance you’ll have to find out how best you can help them.
Arrive early and ask the organisers for introductions
Arriving early is a great way to get started with a smaller crowd. Depending on the size of the event, the organisers will be likely to know those there and asking them to introduce you to other early birds will help you establish quick connections. It may go a long way in taking the pressure off as well as giving and gaining full attention of others before the distractions begin can be helpful. Remember it’s also important that you circulate – if you’re with the same people the whole time, you may miss out on some great opportunities. Be brave!
Know your goals
Set goals ahead of time to make the most of the event. Your goals could range from handing out 50 business cards, to finding 3 new leads, to finding a few people in your industry to share knowledge and expertise with. Having clear goals will allow you to remain focussed on what you’re trying to achieve and prevent you from getting distracted.
Ask who else you could talk to
When you’re chatting to people, tell them why you’re there and who you’re looking to speak to and ask them if they know anyone you should talk to. This is a great conversation starter on top of being a very easy way to get a quick introduction to the right people.
Think outside the box with this one. When listening to others talk about their businesses, think not only about how you could potentially help them, but who else you know who could help on other areas. Then you can offer to introduce them to someone else in your network. Facilitating other connections will help you become a familiar face, and become their secret little black book!
When you meet the people you want to build a connection with, follow up as quickly as you can whether it be by email or social media. Be sure to refer to something specific you discussed or a moment within your meeting to personalise your message. Ask them how they found the event and whether they managed to meet the right people.
Interesting and relevant questions are important so if you’re stuck for what to say, you can adapt the below to suit your personality.
Questions you can ask:
- What do you do and why do you love it?
- What are you hoping to gain from being here?
- What’s your biggest challenge in business at the moment?
- What’s your long-term goal?
- Is there anyone here you’re specifically hoping to meet?
- What are you looking for? I may know someone I can introduce you to.
- What your biggest passion outside of business?
- Who’s your ideal client or what sort of clients do you love to work with?
- How and why did you start your business?
- When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you ‘grew up’?
Off to your first networking event? Let me know how it goes!
And if you’re going to any great events in Devon, maybe see if I’m going too as it would be lovely to meet you.