7 SECRETS FOR ROCKING YOUR NEXT NETWORKING EVENT
presented by Kat Squibb Portraits
Now if you are anything like me, I used to DREAD going to network events! I’m naturally an introvert and would rather be at home in my PJs with a glass of wine binge-watching Shameless. Or maybe even doing laundry! ANYTHING except getting dressed up, packing up business cards, and attempting to make conversation and socialize with 200-something people that only want to sell me on their businesses.
Like it or not, networking events are a necessary part of growing your business and attracting potential clients and business partnerships. And once you know how to prepare and how to network properly, these events become much more fun and fruitful! So all you introverts, let’s put our mascara and big girl panties on and get to some networking events! Here’s some tips to make the most of them:
1. First step to finding networking events in your area and that coincide with your business goals is to get involved in your community. Join your local chamber of commerce, your local BNI, search online for women’s networking groups in the area, on Facebook, and on Meetup. Read their mission statements and goals and see if you feel like they would be a good fit for you and your brand.
2. Once you find some networking groups and events to attend, make sure to have a goal going in. Ask yourself two things:
· “What do I hope to gain by attending this event?” Whether it be getting out and meeting new people, acquiring new leads to add to your sales funnel, meeting other businesses with similar clientele to cross-market with, etc. Knowing ahead of time what you are hoping to get out of the event will help you stay focused and feel more productive at the end.
· “How can I help?” Remember, you aren’t there simply to sling your own brand (per se). What is it that you can offer? Say you’re a photographer. OK, you can sell portraits or weddings, or whatever but WHAT ELSE do YOU bring to the table? Is it marketing strategies? Website design? Personal branding? Remember, you are not only shaking hands here. You are providing solutions.
3. Dress your brand! I cannot stress this enough! If you are selling a luxury brand or cater to affluent clients, don’t show up in jeans and a tank top. Dress to impress! Like attracts like. If you want to attract high end clients, you must dress the part. They say that a first impression is made within the first seven seconds of meeting someone and this is so true at networking events. Most people at these events don’t know each other from Adam, so how you are dressed and put together will make the difference of someone coming up to learn more about you or not. So pick an outfit that not only looks great, but makes you feel great too!
4. Bring your business cards! So many times have I been to a networking event and talking with someone who I have an amazing connection with and may want to work with in the future and when I ask them for a business card, they didn’t bring them or ran out! *gasp* I personally never have less than 100 business cards in my purse at any given time. And I even carry backups in the glove compartment of my car. Why? Because you never know when you’ll need them! And at a networking event, you will definitely need them! I get all my business cards from MOO for their phenomenal quality and versatility in paper stock, edges, and thickness, but there are so many places that offer inexpensive and fast business cards that there is just no good excuse, not to have any.
5. Don’t be a wallflower! I know it’s tempting to just grab a drink and stand in the corner until someone approaches you but this is your chance to get out there and make not only lots of connections, but meaningful ones! Consider it speed-dating for your business! There are tons of people here that you can connect with; some may be your ideal client and others may be totally so far off from who you are looking to meet. You’ll never know who is who unless you meet them! As an introvert, I have to remind myself that everyone is here for the exact same reason: to meet other business owners. Keeping this in mind, I find myself much more comfortable just walking up to random groups of people (with a big smile on my face) and introducing myself. Phew! Now that the hard part is done (getting dressed up, getting my butt in gear to actually go to the event, and introducing myself to people) you can sit back and enjoy getting to know about everyone’s business and share a bit about your own.
6. Listen twice as much as you speak! Now you may be tempted to jump in and talk about yourself and your business but keep it short. A few sentences at most and then turn the conversation back on the other person. You want to learn about them, their business, why they are passionate about it. A mentor of mine once said “you have two ears for listening and only one mouth so listen twice as much as you talk”. Learn as much about them as you can. People LOVE to be listened to and asking things about their business, where they’re from, if they have kids, etc will help you brainstorm about how you and your business can serve them.
Eventually the ball will be in your court and they will ask about you and your business. This is where all that listening will come in handy. Whether you are a financial advisor, a photographer, a wellness coach, or a business consultant learning as much as you can about the person in front of you will aid you in turning this “person” into a potential “client” or “partner” or whatever it was that you set as your goal for that evening. I’ve met dozens of people at networking events that will literally just walk up to me, hand me a business card, give me their “elevator pitch” and walk away and I think to myself “why would I hire this person?” I wouldn’t. Because they don’t know or even care about my needs and didn’t take the time to get to know me at all. After your conversation is done and you both have moved on your separate ways, jot down as much as you can remember about that person. Whether it be on the back of their business card, a notebook, or a note in your phone. You are going to meet a lot of people tonight and these notes are key for #7.
7. Follow up!! Don’t just let those business cards collect dust and wait for them to call you. You need to send an email within the next 24 hours (or my personal favorite: a personal hand-written note) to those contacts with whom you chatted. Be sure to mention some of the things you talked about (and made notes of) so they know that you were listening and to help forge that bond. In my experience, people generally hire other people based on their personality, NOT on their price or the quality of their work. So showing that you were listening to them, retaining that information, and caring enough about your meeting to follow up with them speaks volumes about the kind of connection you made.
Networking is one of the greatest tools we have in the business world, made even easier by technology. Being able to research networking events, follow up with contacts via Linkedin, their professional Facebook page, and email makes growing our network and sales funnels easier than ever! Just remember to be professional, dress the part, be proactive, listen more than you speak, and have some fun!
Kat Squibb Portraits