Networking events are a great way to raise awareness of your business, gain advice, and make valuable connections to help you grow your network.
If you’re investing the time in attending a networking event, you’ll want to make the most of it. Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to prepare yourself so that you get the best from the event.
Plus, mingling in a room full of strangers isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and making sure you are prepared can help ease those nerves.
1. Write down your goals
Before you attend the event, it’s worthwhile thinking about what you want to get out of it. Are there particular people you want to meet? Do you want to interact with people from a specific industry? Or do you just want to get to know other business owners in your community?
Attending the event with a few goals written down will help you to get the most out of it. If you know what you’re looking for, it can also help you to break the ice and steer the conversation.
2. Do your research
Doing some research on the event, and the organisation hosting it, can help you gauge a better idea of what you might get from it and the types of people you might encounter. If you’re able to find names of speakers and fellow attendees, even better. Knowing a few things about the people you’re likely to meet means you can go along to the event with a few conversation topics already up your sleeve.
3. Reach out in advance
There’s no need to wait until you meet people face-to-face to start connecting. If you’ve identified some people you’re most interested in meeting, why not reach out to them on LinkedIn ahead of the event? Send then a message and let them know you’ll be there and are interested in connecting.
4. Have your elevator pitch ready
It’s inevitable that at some point in your conversations with people, you’ll be asked about your work, so make sure you know exactly what you want to say. Preparing an elevator pitch before the event will put you at ease when asked, “What do you do?”
Of course, you can adjust what you say for each person you talk to but make sure the core point of what you want to say remains intact. First impressions count, and you want each person you talk to to really understand what it is you can offer them.
5. Consider how you could help other people
While you will be keen to connect with people who can support your business, networking isn’t a one way street and you should be trying to build mutually beneficial relationships. So when you do your research and identify some people to connect with, be sure to think about how you might be able to help them in return.
6. Have your business cards ready
While the aim of attending a networking event isn’t to give out and collect as many business cards as possible, it can be useful to carry some with you. This means if you want to hand them out to anyone you connect particularly with - and you don’t want them to forget you! - then you’ll be able to do so.
7. Update your social networking sites
In the age of social media, chances are people won’t need your business card to find you. They can just look you up on social media. And when they do that, you want to make sure that what they find is up-to-date. So before you attend the networking event, be sure to give your LinkedIn and other business-related social media profiles a review. How up to date is your profile photo, for example?
8. Steer clear of barriers to connection
When attending a network event you want to look open and approachable, so try to avoid being on your phone or holding anything in your hands. You may well have notes with you, or your business cards. But keep these in your pockets or a bag so that your hands are free to greet people with a strong handshake.
9. Go it alone
The idea of attending a networking event on your own might sound daunting to some people. But if you are nervous about being in a room full of strangers, just remember that those strangers want to talk to people, including you. Everybody is in the same boat, no matter how confident they may appear.
It can be tempting to take someone for support. But if you go it alone, you’re more likely to reach out and talk to people. Others will probably be more likely to approach you too. You may have other reasons for taking somebody with you, which is fine, but if it’s a comfort blanket you’re looking for, be bold and try going it alone. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy the experience.
10. Plan your outfit
Perhaps this sounds a little overboard, but you’ll want to look professional and send the right message about your business. Besides, how you present yourself can have a direct impact on how confident you feel. So opt for something smart and comfortable that you feel great in. If you feel comfortable, you’ll act more confidently and come across as more approachable.
Are you ready to connect?
Attending networking events can help you to make valuable connections that could ultimately help you to grow your business. You never know what it might lead to; advice, friendships, collaboration opportunities, the list is endless. If anything, it will help you to remember that you are all in it together. Heading into 2020, having a network of like-minded business owners around you can be a great support as you grow your business.
As a member of the Bedfordshire Chamber, you get free access to our regular networking events in the local area. To find out more about our upcoming events click here. Or if you want to know more about membership options, click here.