In all honesty, networking events can be terrifying.
Even for the most outgoing industry professional. There’s something that kicks back in your stomach when you walk into a room full of people and realize you are going to have to discuss with a good number of them.
Christine Comaford, businesswoman and serial entrepreneur said: “Networking is marketing, marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for”.
She couldn’t be more right. However, for some people, they would rather fake a seizure than meet a horde of unfamiliar faces, making small talk with them and meeting a lot of expectations on the long run.
Some people would avoid the networking session altogether. But is that really a good idea? see 7 reasons you should consider going to the next networking event you are invited to.
1. To Build Business Relationships
Networking is part of a long-term strategy; it’s about creating, building and nurturing relationships that will lead to strategic referrals, alliances, and joint ventures. New business relationships start very nicely at business networking events.
Attending the event itself is very important but it’s only the first step. The fortune is in the follow-up. Everything depends on what you do with your new found business relationship after the event. This will turn your new relationship into business opportunities.
2. To Keep Up-To-Date With Trends
When in a room with a number of people from your industry, you are bound to get talking about what has been happening lately. Attending networking events hosted by your industry members, or associations related to your target market, allows you to gain insight into current and future trends, industry challenges and potential solutions. This knowledge can easily give you a leg up on the competition.
3. To Connect With Key Influencers
It is not every day that you have an opportunity to connect with key influencers and leaders in your field. If you were to walk past them in any other setting, you probably wouldn’t stop them, however, networking events provide the environment to approach these people and have a discussion.
It’s important to remember that networking does not end after the event is over; it is useful to send a follow-up email, meet up for lunch or drinks, and connect on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Integrating social media into your networking strategy will take you to the next level of communication with potential customers.
4. To Be Motivated
Most networking events have you leaving with new ideas, inspiration and a sense of motivation. When you are placed in a room with people you consider achievers, it is hard not to go home and wonder what else you can be doing. Often times, these speakers will give you the boost that you need to take action.
5. Building Your Professional Team
In today’s ever-changing job market, many professionals have been displaced through downsizing and are looking for a position that will take full advantage of their talents.
Networking events can be a wonderful way to meet new candidates. It is a great way to gain an informal understanding of a person and decide if that person can take your business to the next level.
6. Increase Your Visibility
Networking is more than just a personal promotion and getting more customers. It’s really about expanding on your existing network of friends, acquaintances, and customers, and leveraging on their networks.
Going to networking events is an important marketing strategy. These give you the chance to make sure that you get your face and message in front of the right people.
7. Master Your Message
A business networking event is a great place to be in sync with what your business stands for, it is the best place to practice and refine your business pitch. You have 30 seconds to convey who you are, what you do, what makes you different from others and why someone would want to work with you. You get to repeat and polish your pitch severally which helps you master your message.
Now, How do you network?
Richard Branson of Virgin Group once said, “Succeeding in business is all about making connections.” It’s true, not only with customers but with other industry stakeholders.
Networking is by far, the most effective way to land your dream job/partnership. It may not be the only way, but it sure is the most successful.
But are you doing it right?
Too many times, the answer to that is no. Here are five things to keep in mind that will help you not bomb at your next networking event:
8. Don’t be overly aggressive
Being overly aggressive at networking events will make you seem desperate, creepy, or like you have an agenda. If the event is explicitly a networking event, a little more boldness is socially acceptable. But if it’s a mixer, a party, or a general social event, play things cool. Not only will you be more effective in your networking, you’ll enjoy yourself more.
9. Don’t Brag
Some might say networking is a time to shine and show off what you’ve done. True, but there is a thin line between casting the spotlight on your exciting projects/skills and casting the spotlight on your cockiness. There’s no quicker way to turn people off than for you to come off as cocky or conceited especially at a networking event. Even if what you’ve accomplished is incredible and worthy of being bragged about, nobody wants to work with a jerk.
Be confident in who you are and speak honestly about what you’ve done, but be careful not to jump from confidence to arrogance.
10. Don’t focus on yourself
How can you avoid looking impatient? To paraphrase John F Kennedy: Ask first not what your contact can do for you, but what you can do for your contact. Networking is about finding a win-win situation for all the parties involved in the connection. Anything else is usually called a favor.
Not only is it polite to ask about the other person, but if you find out you can help that person, it’s good karma and they will want to return the favor.
Plus, focusing on the other person may help you get into a more substantive conversation. Not quite sure how to start? Make it a point of duty that, everyone you meet gets to talk way more than you do. Find out what they do, what they need, long before you start talking or touting yourself.
11. Use Business Cards
It might seem like an old-school move, but carry business cards. People want a card and it’s one of the only concrete ways to ensure they remember you. If you want to score points with the people who give you their card, here’s a tip: Snap a picture of it and tell them you’ve saved it on your phone so they can save the card to give away to someone else.
12. Don’t play hard to get
This isn’t dating. This is business. Dealing with people in a way that respects their time and communication is important. If you get a call or email after the event, don’t play coy. This might seem obvious, but it’s the unconscious norm. Ridiculous responsiveness is rare, and when it’s done well, people notice. When you leave a networking event, be sure to follow up with the people you said you would. And if you get a call or email from a contact, respond quickly and immediately. It honors their time and shows that you’re a person who is trustworthy, responsive, and hardworking.
Not sure which networking event to attend next? You should take a look at the High Growth Africa Summit which is just around the corner.
This is something you should experience personally.
You can get a chance to win a free ticket to the summit here
Feature image via CSIX