Networking events can be amazing – you’ll meet countless people you would never be able to interact with otherwise in a face-to-face environment. They also give you a chance to make some strong business connections that can grow into a opportunities later on.
They can also be a total nightmare – if you let them! Without proper planning, a networking event quickly turns from a fun and productive evening/weekend/whatever into a huge headache with no cure in sight.
Figure Out What You Want
It’s one thing to sign up for the event and yet another to go in and get what you want out of it. Each one is vastly different so it would be impossible to create a template of what to do every time you attend one. The first event you go to could be an evening full of drinks and chatting and the next could be a weekend long retreat that’s so poorly attended you accidentally make five life-long friends.
No matter what activities will be held or how many people will be in attendance you need to figure out what you want out of the event. Of course you want to meet people and make business contacts, but what exactly is your reason for going?
For example, simply attending an event to “make new contacts” is a little aimless. You may or may not meet someone who can help you. A better idea would be to pinpoint beforehand some potential contacts who could help you expand into that new market you’ve always wanted to hit. The only way you would know those people would be in attendance is if you planned ahead and knew what you wanted out of the event.
Importance of Swag
Whether you’re going to the networking event as a vendor or simply as a guest, you’re going to have problems with your new friends remembering you. It’s just the way it goes: you meet 200 people during the event and you may only recall a few of them the next day. It’s just the way it goes, and you have to work around it.
This is why “swag” or fun stuff to hand out is so important. If someone you meet shakes your hand and moves on, they’re likely going to forget even meeting you. If you throw them something fun in their bag, or at least have a noticeable business card, the chances of them following up with you increase tenfold.
Sometimes businesses go way out of the way to do something unique and crazy, like giving out customized koozies or even high-end electronics. While this will surely endear you to the recipients, it may also stretch your budget, especially if you’re just getting started. Go for something a little simpler and you’ll still be able to reap all the rewards.
Make sure you’re not just handing them out left and right, though, without actually talking to anyone! While the idea is to get your business in their head at all costs, you also want them to know why you’re important to talk to. Otherwise, you’re just another nameless, faceless company handing out junk they don’t care about.
How many network events do you try to go to each year?
Also check out: 15 Types of Events Your Business Can Host
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Grab three free ebooks, including the Big Press Release Book and Twitter Tactics, here: http://www.ereleases.com/insider/freebooks.html