Successful networking at events is one of the goals that many professionals seek to achieve.
Love them or hate them, business networking events are here to stay. And in a world where we are increasingly working online, successful networking at events is becoming more important than ever.
One of the real successes of late are “tweet-ups” – meetings between people that have engaged on twitter. These can be powerful networking events, as to some extent the “ice is already broken” even if people have not met in the real world before. The meeting is NOT about selling, but about building on the relationships already formed.
Making networking events work for you
Recently I was pointed to an interesting post about successful networking at events (or the mistakes) by Thom Singer.
In his post Thom outlines seven business networking mistakes people make:
1) Spending too much time with co-workers and other friends
2) Seeking time with celebrity speakers, industry gurus and other VIPs
3) Talking too much
4) Paying attention to electronics
5) Skipping keynotes and other sessions
6) Expecting a short conversation to make someone part of a network
7) Arriving late, leaving early, or skipping the networking time altogether
Now I cannot disagree with any of his points, well except #4 as the world has changed, and people may use tablets and phones as both a “wall to hide behind”, and to catchup on what else is happening at the event – but sure, it is a risk.
Successful networking at events needs a purpose
To have a successful networking experience at any event needs so pre-planning and thought. Why are you there? What do you hope to gain? How will you know if you have been successful?
When we attend an event, for it to be successful we need a number of small but important goals or outcomes:
1) what do you intend to gain from the content?
2) what do you hope to gain from the presenters
3) what or who are you aiming to meet?
4) what will make this a successful networking event?
Often people attend events “because they are there” or it may be of interest. To be more successful networking at events, we need goals to help us identify what is or is not of interest. These goals need to be specific enough that we know what we are looking for, but not as specific as we miss opportunities.
For example, if a goal is to meet Mrs Smith, Head of HR at ABC Plc, we may meet, her but who will we miss on the way? If the goal is to meet 3-5 people who are Head of HR – then its a wider goals, but specific enough that we wont miss key people.
Equally why do we want to meet them? to add to our growing collection of business cards or LinkedIn connections, or to find out how they are solving xxx problem?
At successful networking events social media can be social
Increasingly people are using electronic tables and phones to add social dimensions to their experience. Successful networking at events can mean sharing what is happening at the event with people that are not there.
Some people use the device as a comfort blanket, if they have no-one else to talk to. I have a simple rule at events – I target people on their own, no matter if they are using a smart device or not. Ask if you can join them, and often some of the best conversations can be struck. Go out of your way to introduce yourself to people on their own. technology should no-longer be the barrier it once was.
Skip the sales pitch for successful networking at events
he #1 mistake many people make, and its what puts many of us off networking in the first place, is the sell. You are not there to distribute your business card, you are not there to deliver a 30 second elevator pitch, you are not there to make a sale.
What you are there for is to build relationships and trust. If someone asks for your card – of course give it to them, but only if they ask.
5 Key steps for successful networking at events
For me the following at key things to make any networking event a success.
1) Know what you are going
2) Know the type of people you want to meet
3) Involve and include people – go to the people on their own or in pairs
4) Listen, listen, listen… build rapport
5) Remember, its not about you, its about them.
However you manage your networking, remember its about successful networking at events – have fun, if its not fun for you, it wont be fun for them!