Many people find their first networking meeting daunting as they don’t know what to expect or what is expected of them. Here are five tips to give you more confidence going out to your first event. Even if it’s not your first time networking, I hope you will still find some of these tips useful.
1) Choose the type of meeting carefully.
You might be more confident at a more social and relaxed style of meeting perhaps where it is just a meal and socialising with other business professionals whereas others prefer a more formal structured type of meeting where they are guided by a schedule and there is a bit less social chat. It’s a good idea to try different types of meetings, but for your first one it helps to do something you feel comfortable with. There are loads of different events on Eventbrite so you can browse there for some ideas or get in touch and I’ll give you a few suggestions.
2) Do your research before you go.
Make sure you know what will be expected of you during the event. Will there be introductions to the room? Is there a set arrival and departure time? Is there a speaker? Will you have to pay for anything? If you are going as a visitor to a membership group, you should do some additional research first to find out whether you are interested in joining as there may be special offers on the day or some pressure from organisers to join up immediately. If you go prepared, then you can make sure you are making the right decision. If you can, speak to members of the organisation before the event, perhaps via LinkedIn, to get the advantages and disadvantages. On the day, make sure you are clear about what you are committing to and what the organisation gives you in return. Be aware that all networking requires effort and time from you. If someone promises you loads of leads and business in order to entice you in, then beware. However, if done correctly membership groups can be a fantastic way to grow your business.
3) Have a short pitch prepared.
You may be asked to give a 30 second, 40 second, 60 second or even two minute pitch or introduction to the room. Some people like to script these in advance or have notes and others prefer to have their key ideas in their head and talk naturally. Everyone is different, so think about what works best for you or try each style at a different meeting! Getting your introduction right is difficult, I’ve got a whole blog about just doing your pitch, but the key points are to be clear about what you do and who your target audience is and remember less is more! You should also think about how you will introduce yourself to someone else when asked, “What do you do?” which is like a mini pitch, but shouldn’t be about you selling to the other person. The aim of all the pitches/introductions above is to draw the other person into a longer conversation to find out more so don’t tell them everything in one go.
4) Arrange a follow-up with three to five people in the room.
This might be a phone call, virtual meeting or physically meeting up for coffee. Aim to meet with those people you think could be most valuable to you. Remember, they may not be clients, but they may know other people who are your target market. Connect with other people in the room on LinkedIn so you can start to build an online relationship with them. Following up is a really key part of networking and one that often gets forgotten.
5) Gather advice and information.
If it’s your first meeting, it’s likely that you are just getting your business off the ground. You might find people who can provide you useful services such as accountancy, branding, printing services and lead generation or just help you connect to other useful contacts. Many people find that after a few meetings they have slightly changed how they approach their business so don’t worry if you don’t feel you have everything in place at the start – it’s probably better if you don’t so you can develop and evolve based on the advice of seasoned business owners. There are plenty of free talks and workshops that will help your business and personal development so make sure you are always learning.
Overall, just enjoy the meeting and remember that it takes time and effort to build relationships so don’t expect too much at the start. What you can expect is for people to be welcoming and want to help you and your business if you make a good impression.
If you want to know more about you can network successfully, please do get in touch.