The thought of entering a room full of cheese trays and eager professionals in suits proffering business cards scares many people to death. Wouldn’t you rather just stay in the office and work in your business? So would most of us. But the fact remains that in person meetings are one of the best ways to make contacts and close deals, and so networking events are a necessary evil. If you work them right they can even be – dare I say it – fun. Here’s how:
1. Choose the Right Event – Are you a graphic designer looking for new clients? Then chances are a event for graphic designers isn’t where you want to be, while an event for local startups might yield new clients galore. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a few good partners in your work, that first event with all its graphic designer attendees might be the right place for you after all. Know why you’re networking in the first place and don’t waste your time and money on an event that doesn’t align with your networking goals.
2. Arrive Early – What terrifies you about networking events? Is it the thought of walking into a room full of people who all seem to know one another, clutching your Diet Coke in one hand and your business cards in the other while everybody chats away amiably? One way to avoid this eventuality is to forego conventional cool kid wisdom and arrive early. You and the few other early birds will have a built in conversation starter.
3. Don’t Be All Work and No Play – Everybody knows that the purpose of networking events is to “do business.” But just because that eventuality hovers like the elephant in the room doesn’t mean that you should talk about all business all the time. Use networking events to get to know others as people first, business people second. The relationship will have a much firmer foundation.
4. Make Introductions – So you spent five minutes talking to an aspiring PR pro in one corner, then subsequently met a recruiter from a major PR firm over by the snack table. Make the introduction. Both parties will be pleased you did and if the relationship grows, you’ll be remembered.
5. Speed Network – Use the networking event to meet as many people as possible. Even if you meet someone who utterly fascinates you, don’t talk to them for more than five minutes or so. If you’re really having trouble tearing yourself away, schedule a lunch or a phone call for later in the week.
6. Follow Up – While the networking event is a first step, most of the real business gets done after the fact. Be sure to collect business cards and then follow up soon after the event (before names and faces become a blur.) And don’t think that just because a person isn’t a potential client that he or she doesn’t merit a follow up. They could know someone else who needs your services or just simply have enjoyed meeting you.
Whether you thrive at networking events or have to force yourself to grind out your elevator speech, mixers and meetups are a great way to meet potential clients and lucrative contacts. It’s worth your time to rock the event.
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of 8 Shocking Secrets Press Release Distribution Firms Don’t Want You to Know here: http://www.ereleases.com/landing3.html