Despite being able to market your business online from the convenience of your phone, attending in-person networking events is still extremely valuable and even critical for being able to grow your business. Although it may seem like you can build many more connections online than you can in person, don’t discount the value and rapport that comes from meeting someone face-to-face and getting to know one another.
What types of networking events can you attend?
- Morning coffee chats
- Afternoon lunches
- After business hours drinks
- Workshops / panels / conferences
- Volunteer events
With so many options to choose from, you’re sure to find events that work with your schedule and align with your business goals. If you’re going to spend the time, energy, and maybe even money on these events, though, how can you make sure you get the most out of them? Check out these tips.
Be Selective with the Events You Attend
Yes, this advice is potentially telling you to cut back on the amount of events you’re considering attending. Why? The quality of the events you go to means so much more than the quantity of the events you go to – meaning, if you attend only two networking events that had 50 guests each, that’s much better than attending five networking events that had only 10 guests each.
However, that might not always be the case – if you find a super niche networking event that’s a perfect fit for your career or industry, those smaller events could be a goldmine for you. It’s all about perspective and doing your research beforehand.
Additionally, take the location into consideration and be sure it will be worth the drive for you if it’s a little bit farther away. Living in Massachusetts, we personally tend to avoid going to networking events in Boston because we know the traffic will likely be a nightmare, and after working all day, driving an hour into the city doesn’t exactly sound ideal. That’s OK, though – don’t be afraid to say no to events that don’t work for you or your schedule.
Lastly, see if you’re able to get your hands on a guest list for the event. If you’re able to get an inside look into who’s attending and what they do, that will help you to decide whether or not you’ll be able to make some valuable connections.
Stick to Meeting a Handful of People
Although it may be tempting to make your way around the entire room and meet every single attendee, it’s not always practical or possible. If the event only lasts two hours and there are 75 attendees, how could you possibly have enough time to meet with everyone and be sure to have a solid conversation rather than a quick hello?
For that reason alone, aiming to meet only a handful of people is much more attainable. How do you know which people you should chat with, though? There are a few tricks for determining that:
- If you have access to the guest list before the event, make a note of which guests you’d like to meet so you already have them in mind when you arrive.
- If the event has everyone give a brief introduction, keep track of which attendees you’d like to know more.
It’s much easier to nurture and maintain your network when it’s not so large. How could you possibly be able to find a way to benefit every single person? If you keep your circle “small,” you’ll have much more success with keeping track of everyone.
Bring Your Business Cards and Other Takeaways
This may be a given, but bring your business cards! Double check that you have them with you before you leave for the event – even though you might think you have them in your purse or wallet, it’s very easy to end up forgetting them.
Business cards are always a must, but if you have other takeaways that you’d like to share, those are great options as well. They could be brochures; promo items, like pens or hand sanitizer; flyers; and more. Be sure to hand them out to every person you meet so they have your contact information and will be more apt to remember you.
Follow Up with Your New Connections
The networking doesn’t end when the event ends – always be sure to follow up and stay in touch with the people you meet. This may include:
- Sending them an email to let them know you enjoyed the conversation you had with them
- Requesting to join their LinkedIn network
- Following them on social media
The touchpoints should continue even after this first outreach, too. Be sure to consistently engage with their social media posts and send them a referral or connection as you’re able to. The more you support them, the more they’ll support you!
Attend Events Consistently
Networking shouldn’t be something you do every once in a while – it should be something that you turn into a habit. If you’re just starting to dip your toes into networking, make it a goal to attend at least one event per month for the time being. That will get you comfortable with meeting others, especially if you’re an introvert, and will ensure it works with your schedule. As time allows and as your eagerness to network grows, then you can start to fill your calendar with events.
A pro tip would be to join organizations that frequently host events, like chambers of commerce, and attend as many events by those organizations as you can rather than going to random events here and there. You’re likely to see a handful of the same people as you attend those events, which means you’ll stay top of mind for them when they’re looking to hire someone like you or know someone who is.
By following this process and making it a habit to value in-person connections, you’ll find your business growing from these referrals in no time!