With the advent of the internet and social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook it’s easy to overlook the value of face-to-face business networking because of the extra effort.
And if you’ve found the extra effort is just not worth the effort, that probably means you are not getting new business so perhaps it’s time to take another approach.
Going to networking events can be fun, especially if you are a solo entrepreneur but it’s even more important that you make good use of your time while you are there.
Here are 6 golden rules to follow to help you do just that.
Rule #1. Have a Purpose
Sounds pretty basic but it will save you a lot of time and wasted energy if you have a purpose to your networking.
Your purpose could be to meet new prospective clients, to be “seen” amongst the movers and shakers of your industry or to connect with possible joint venture partners. Depending on the event it could be all three!
Or perhaps you are looking for a coach, mentor or service provider to help you move your business forward.
Main thing is to be clear about why you are there.
Rule #2. Be Selective
Because going to networking events can be fun it’s very tempting to accept every opportunity but you can’t afford to do that.
Being selective means being clear about who you want to connect with and identifying where those people hang out.
If you don’t prioritise you could end up in all the wrong places. Worse still you could miss out on being where you really need to be to make the valuable connections you are seeking.
Check your opportunities against your criteria and ask yourself – is this a good use of my time?
Rule #3. Set an Intention
Before you head out the door – set an intention as to what you want to get out of the networking function.
For example “Today I intend to connect with at least one potential JV partner”, new client or whatever the case may be. And consider it done!
On an energetic level, when you begin mingling you’ll automatically attract the people who are looking for you. Conversations will come easily and you will have more chance of finding a match than having no clear intention or outcome in mind.
Rule #4. Quality not Quantity
There is no need to talk to every person in the room. In fact that is one of the big mistakes people make because there’s simply not enough time. Anyway, your purpose is to make meaningful connections with the people you intend to meet so work on quality and not quantity.
Look around and get a feel for who you want to meet and approach them, take your time, introduce yourself and be inquisitive. Ask questions and wait for the answer – then ask another question. If you like what you hear then spend more time to develop the conversation. If not then politely move on.
At the same time be careful not to monopolise someone just because you do established a rapport. If you are really hitting it off then suggest you spend some more time together and pull out your diary and make a time. Meanwhile you can both continue to mingle.
Rule #5. Swap Business Cards
Sad but true. Some people go to all the trouble of attending a business networking event and don’t take any business cards! Don’t be one of them.
Make sure you leave home with a stack of business cards and be generous in exchanging them with the people who you meet. My tip is to have two pockets in the outfit you wear. One loaded with your cards and another to put the cards of your new acquaintances into so you don’t get them mixed up!
It’s also a great idea to have your picture on your business card so people can recall your face and put a face to the name when you contact them.
Rule #6. Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up
Now, the way to maximize the results from all the time and effort you have made in your face-to-face networking is to follow up.
Make contact in whatever way you like but make contact! An email or better still, a card or note through the snail mail will be appreciated. And not just to sell them something!
Remember too, even though you have met in person you should also connect on common Social Media platforms as well. Send a LinkedIn invitation, Twitter tweet or Facebook friend request. This will broaden the opportunity to share about yourself ongoing as well as learn more about them. This will deepen the relationship must faster than you can imagine.
Business should be fun. So go right ahead and have a good time with your face-to-face networking but always remember your purpose is to make connections and build relationships. Don’t leave empty handed.