We all have to do it right? You are your own sales person when it comes to your business, so sometimes a good way for prospects to find you is for you to be out and about, present and active in the professional community. But there are so many events to go to, and its difficult to squeeze them into an already busy schedule or to include all of them in your budget. So, how do you maximize the resources you have, get the most from the events you attend, and get a return on your investment? We’ve got 5 easy tips for a better networking experience.
6. Set Reasonable Goals: Until they perfect cloning and you can be in multiple places at once, let’s just accept the premise that you may not be able to make all the events that are available to you. So, maybe set a goal for how many events you want to attend in a month. Anywhere from 2-4 is a great start. Setting a goal will allow you to put time in your schedule, be selective with what events to attend, and plan ahead.
5. Set a Budget: Some events are free, but others require an out of pocket expense. While there might be a price tag involved, there could also be a good return on your investment based on the type of the event or the people attending. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to set a monthly budget and to choose events wisely. You can mix up your events between one or two that cost money and one or two that are free mixers/networking happy hours.
4. Play it Cool: Be more interested in conversation than making a sale. You’ll find that people will gravitate to you more if you just be yourself or pick a current interest topic to talk about. Sometimes people who introduce themselves and immediately want to sell themselves can push people away. Conversations, connections, and experiences are what attract people to become interested in who you are and what you do. Letting this unfold naturally over appetizers and a drink is the perfect way to put yourself out there and make a good impression.
3. Don’t Over Indulge: A networking event is generally not the time to make a mad dash for the food table or to go through a few rounds of drinks to the point where your judgement/response time is impaired. Eat and drink in moderation, and if you happen to connect really well with a couple other attendees, let the evening continue by inviting them out for a drink or food afterwards.
2. Keep in Touch: Don’t wait for someone to reach out to you after a networking event. If you really want to stay connected, get their business card after talking with them, and then follow up with them via email the next day. This is not an opportunity for you to sell directly to them, but more a way to say that it was good to meet them and you would like to connect with them again. Connect with them on LinkedIn to keep the lines of communication open. That way you stay in their news feed and they get updates about what you’re doing.
1. Know Where To Look: Events are occurring everywhere and some searching on your part can prove to be very beneficial. You can find these events by searching within your immediate circle of professional colleagues. You can also use sites such as meetup.com to be a part of groups and join events where people gather based on common interest (professional, personal, etc). You can also search eventbrite.com to find out what events are occuring locally in your area. And you can look up the events of professional organizations and media outlets (such as Baltimore Business Journal, SmartCEO, Urbanite Magazine, etc).
This winning combination of choosing the right events, making the most of your time at them, following up, and planning accordingly will greatly enhance your networking experience.