Networking is a necessary part of professional life and the perfect way to meet new contacts, find out about new and interesting businesses and develop your own communication skills.
Networking allows you to build trust which is so important when developing relationships. It also enables you to connect with people, understand their roles, their business and their future aspirations.
Networking shouldn’t only be used as a way of developing new business, but as an opportunity to meet new contacts who you might be able to refer to in the future.
There are many networking groups to choose from: sector specific, subject specific and even gender specific. It’s best to try as many groups as possible at the beginning to see where you feel comfortable and where the services of your company are relevant. That’s not to say you don’t need to push yourself in time to attend those larger events; ones where you may have to introduce yourself to your table or even the room. Time is precious so you need to be strategic in your thinking as to the most appropriate events to join and those that fit with the objectives of what you are trying to achieve.
Here’s some handy tips:
If you’re planning to attend an event where you can get the guest list in advance, make sure you research who is attending, so you can identify who might benefit from your company’s services. They may have some recent news that you could congratulate them on, e.g. an industry award or something similar, that makes the conversation feel natural and not like a sales pitch. It’s a small world so use LinkedIn to find out about an individual’s professional life. It’s also handy to remember what they look like, as in a crowded room it will be easier to spot them.
Prepare and practice
Make sure you prepare your strategy before the event. You may only get 10 seconds with a key contact and those golden opportunities might not present themselves again. This should include an elevator pitch and a few questions, again this will need to be tailored to who you meet. It needs to be relevant to them.
Networking events are the perfect way to develop relationships. No one likes a hard sales approach as it doesn’t foster long-term relationships.
The follow-up after an event is very important, so make sure you note down all the relevant information shortly after it finishes so you don’t forget your actions. Follow up with any warm leads you made within a few days before they go cold! LinkedIn is a great way of maintaining those contacts going forward.
If you get an opportunity to give feedback on an event, use it as it will help organisers to shape future activities. You also need to feed back to your own team – was there a sponsorship or speaking opportunity that would be worth taking up next time? Networking is a great way to find out what potential clients need and evaluate if the products and services you currently offer meet that need. If not, why not?
If you are looking to host your own events, pay attention to the ones you currently attend. What works? Was there enough food and drink? What were the surroundings like? Is there free parking? All these elements need to be looked at as they will affect how any event is received.
Networking is great fun and opens you up to so many possibilities so be brave, be polite and be yourself!
If you would like to find out more about our services and how we could help you communicate better with your clients, please contact a member of our team.