Importantly, networking events are face-to-face interactions with physical contact and a forum where there’s less chance of suffering the consequences of misunderstood tone and non-verbal communication – which influences 93% of message interpretation.
If you’re not genuinely experiencing a sense of ‘glad I went’ after attending an event such as a Bartercard breakfast or networking night, if it feels like a big effort for little return, and you’re just seeing the same old faces and hearing the same spiels … perhaps it’s time to rethink your networking strategy and skills.
Reconsidering how you contribute to the interaction might change your experience. Here are five tips for checking that your presence is noticed by other guests, making a positive difference on your company’s scorecard.
1. Be prepared.
Decide what you want to gain from attending the event before you RSVP or register, especially if there’s a financial cost. How would attending the event support your marketing or business development strategy? Apart from a pocketful of cardboard and maybe a beer stain on your tie or wine stain on your dress, what outcomes the next day will be evidence that you attended with a purpose?
Plan your transport and parking so you can arrive on time without fluster.
Check the daily and breaking news headlines in case you need a conversation starter.
2. Know your limits.
If you’re introverted, shy or find crowded scenes stressful for other reasons, set yourself a time limit to achieve your objective and plan a courteous, inconspicuous exit.
If you are driving, tired, or a light weight, monitor your alcohol intake. Eat to help metabolise the alcohol, even if the appetisers aren’t all that appetising. Nobody will find your sozzled behaviour amusing or entertaining - least of all your customers in the morning.
It’s tempting to stay chatting to people you know and whose company you enjoy – often they’re your own team. Moving around the room will put you in sight of a lot more people. Wear your name tag where others can read it.
Remember your purpose and seek out new contacts who could add value to your network and business interests as a customer/client or referral source. Ask someone you know to introduce you to someone you don’t.
Before thrusting your business card into everyone’s faces, wait to see if you think it would be welcome; and treat all the cards handed to you respectfully.
4. Open up.
Ask open ended questions and encourage others to talk about their business interests – especially if you’ve decided your purpose for attending the event is to gather intelligence. It’s not what you know or who you know that’s useful; it’s what you know about who you know!
Ensure your body language conveys your willingness to engage with others – and that includes putting your mobile phone away, not just on silent. Look up, smile, stand with your feet a little bit apart, straighten your shoulders and keep your right arm by your side, ready to introduce yourself with a handshake.
5. Follow up.
Write notes on the business cards you collect – where you met the person and how you think you could solve a problem for them, for example.
Within two days add the cards’ details and notes to your CRM or other system for maintaining client relationships, while your memory is fresh.
Within a week, make contact via email, phone or social media – connect via LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter, add a comment to their blog.
Within a fortnight, try to arrange a meeting or informal coffee chat.
Within a month, send them something useful, like a newsletter, an article link or an invitation.
By then, you’ll know if attending that event was worth your time and ticker.
Author: Leanne Wyvill
tel. 1300 504 278
Outfox your public speaking fears
Need help with your networking skills and strategy? Leanne Wyvill is an experienced corporate communications professional who has worked for iconic Queensland health and education services, in the public and private sectors, and with several start-ups and not-for-profits. Leanne now runs Presence Communications – a training and services consultancy which helps organisations communicate confidently and effectively. When she’s not equipping new graduates and seasoned staff with essential workplace communication skills, Leanne is a chauffeur for her teenage daughters, the timekeeper at her husband’s karate tournaments, and a fan of Kate Morton and Markus Zusak novels.