But for too many entrepreneurs, attending networking meetings never really pays off. They attend regularly, talk to people, but never see any business as a result.
The reason for this is that too many networking meetings become social events; a chance for people to share a drink and chat with friends rather than a marketing activity. And while it is important to chat and even socialize with other business people – particularly if you are a solopreneur working from home – that is not the purpose of a networking meeting.
If you will be attending a networking meeting, here are my tips for getting great results:
1. Highlight one aspect of your business
Don’t make the mistake of trying to tell people everything you do. You’re just trying to pique their interest and start a conversation. What is the one thing you want people learn about your business today? Promote a new product, tell them about an award, highlight a business milestone. You can’t tell everyone everything about your business, so pick one aspect you will focus on today.
2. Sit with new people.
Don’t make the mistake of only talking to people you already know. More importantly, if you go with people from your business, don’t sit together. The point of networking is to network. Make sure to meet and have a conversation with at least one new person each time.
3. Have a goal
Go into each meeting with a goal or target. Perhaps it’s to meet a specific person or talk to someone at a particular company. I usually have a goal of having one good conversation with two or three new people. If I learn about their business and they learn a little about mine, I consider that meeting to be a success.
4. Practice your elevator speech
Many networking meetings have a section where you stand up and give your elevator speech to the group. If you’ve only got 30 seconds to make an impression, make the most of it. Don’t stammer through your introduction – be polished and professional.
The best way to do this is practice ahead of time. And don’t just give a laundry list of what you do. Make a statement that is provocative, lets the audience know who your target market is and makes them want to speak with you. If you’re not sure how to do this, read my blog post about the Three Foot Rule and crafting an elevator speech.
5. Bring your business cards
If you are lucky enough to meet someone who might want to buy from you, you need to be able to give them a way to get in touch. Always have your business cards with you. Forgetting is no excuse. I keep a stash in my wallet, every purse I own, my briefcase, my binder and in the glove compartment of the car. The only way I will ever be without business cards is if I show up on foot and naked!
And please don’t use the do-it-yourself cards you print on your home printer and tear apart at the perorations. Business cards are one of the cheapest forms of promotion out there. At the very least, get them professionally printed. Better yet, hire a graphic designer and get some nice looking ones. Compare prices. You’ll find that the do-it-yourself ones don’t really save money and they look cheap.
6. Follow up
You almost never hear of someone handing over a cheque after a first meeting at a networking event. The meeting is just the first step in the process. If you meet someone who is a good prospect for you, follow up outside of the meeting. If they are extremely interested you may be able to get them set up a time to meet right away.
It is more likely however, that you’ll meet someone who is a potential customer, but not really interested yet. By following up you can build on your first impression and keep your name in front of them.
7. Keep coming back
Networking is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Don’t expect to make a sale the first time you show up. Networking is about building relationships. As members of the group get to know, like and trust you, they will become more likely to do business with you, or send referrals your way. The best way to build that “know, like and trust” factor is by showing up. The more you show up, the more people will get to know you.
Andrea J. Stenberg
Do you have a particular tip or strategy you use to get great results at networking events? Have you ever landed a new client after meeting at a networking meeting? Please tell us your secret by leaving a comment.