Networking events are intimidating for many people. Here is how to make sure that you do not waste time at networking events.
An Introduction to Strategic Networking
There are countless networking events all around the world. These range from casual drinks at local co-working spaces in Mumbai and London to full-blown conferences with hundreds or thousands of attendees in Toronto and New York City.
While all business owners want to Network as much as they can, it is impossible for one person to be everywhere at once. It is mentally, physically, and financially impossible to attend every event, and then talk to every person at that event.
This is why, when it comes to getting the most out of networking, two decisions are very important.
- Which events should you go to?
- Who should you talk to once you get there?
The key to not wasting time at networking events is having a plan of attack that answers both questions.
How To Choose The Right Networking Events
Even in the high-tech world of modern business and marketing, people and relationships are still at the heart of any successful business. This can include partners, customers, vendors, and more.
Networking is all about cultivating and sparking these relationships. It’s not about just showing up and appearing busy or talking to 500 people. Here are some things to consider when deciding which events to attend.
Time And Money
Especially in the early years, businesses have so much going on that how they allocate their time and money is critical.
Especially if the event is a paid event, or would take days away from you that you could be working, think about it critically. Do the benefits it would offer you outweigh how much of your time and resources it would take?
Who Else Is Going?
Check for the list of attendees. A big part of what makes these events worthwhile is the chance to connect with people who will help you further your business, or interest you.
If 5% of the attendees, or at least 7 names, interest you than it is worth it to attend.
The Overall Agenda
If the agenda of the event lines up with your current interests or goals, go for it! If it doesn’t, it is probably not worth it to spend the money or take the time to go.
In the early days of your business, if any event invites you to speak, you should take the opportunity. It will give you content, exposure, and attention. After a few years pass, you can be pickier about where you speak.
SEE ALSO: 5 Digital Branding Ideas for Live Events
The Size Of The Event
Many people try to only attend the largest conferences possible for the chance of connecting with the most people possible.
This, however, is not always the best strategy. Large conferences often have large diverse crowds and few people in your target audience.
On the flip side, very small conferences can be hyper niche, and not worth the time and money it would take to attend them.
Experts suggest that mid-size events with about 40-60 people are the best for meaningful networking opportunities. However, you do want to attend at least one mega-event a year.
Here is a list of more than 30 marketing conferences that will take place in 2019.
How To Prepare To Get Sales Leads At Events
Here are some steps that you can take to not waste time at networking events. These key tips will help you
Go For The Goal
Know how many people you want to talk to, or who exactly you want to meet, and be realistic about how many leads that might generate.
Remember, not every person you meet will want to buy from you or build a business relationship with you. Not every person is a lead. Remember to identify curiosity from intent when you talk to people.
Do Your Research
Most event organizers will share a list of key attendees in their promotional materials to create buzz and get people excited. Know who is going to be at events so you are prepared to talk with these key participants.
The Elevator Pitch
Once you have a goal for the event you are attending, create a short elevator pitch. You can use this to talk to strangers, get them interested, and judge i
If you are feeling lost when it comes to creating the perfect elevator pitch, take a look at this handy guide.
SEE ALSO: How to Articulate What You Do
What To Do At Events To Get Leads
So, you have done your homework and are ready to mingle, but what do you do with all that information? You have to know what do with it in order to not waste time at networking events.
Try some of these things in order to make sure you do not waste time at networking events.
Network With The Hosts
Building a good relationship with the hosts of an event can actually open up all kinds of doors. If they like you, they will introduce you to other people, and may even invite you on stage to make a comment or speak.
While this is not guaranteed, it is always good to make connections with key people like these at events.
Dress To Impress
Depending on the event itself, this could mean putting on your swanky best, or it could mean putting on a company t-shirt. Make sure you are appropriately addressed for all events.
While you don’t want to be the only person at a black tie fundraiser or other event in sweat pants, you also don’t want to be the only person at a casual networking event in a bar in an evening gown or tuxedo.
Ask Strategic Questions
Figure out if someone is a sales lead early on, so you don’t spend hours talking to someone with no interest in your company, products, or services. You can do so using these steps:
- Introduce yourself and ask them a casual question to build rapport.
- Try to figure out their reason for being at the event, so you can start to figure out if they are a lead or not. Talk about why you are there, and ask them why they are there.
- When they tell you why they are there, ask them if they or their company have any interest in whatever you offer.
Have A Demo
If the person is not interested in what you offer, move on to the next one. If you want to not waste time at networking events, you have to know when to respectfully move forward.
However, if they are, it can be helpful to capture their attention with a short sneak peek of whatever you offer.
This can be a 30-second video, 5 slide presentation, or something else short and sweet to give them a taste.
If they react well to your demo, book them for a longer introductory meeting, demo, or call.
When You Build Relationships, You Do Not Waste Time At Networking Events
Ultimately, you want to choose the right events, that are the right size, with the right people, so you can build the right relationships. Use these tips to make the most of networking events.
Do you think that large or small events are more useful for networking? Why? Comment below…