Ok so you’ve had the talk about partnership, you have a clear way ahead of you and have now been told to go forth “build your practice”. Part of this brief means expanding your network, which inevitably means networking and for some that’s the one thing that fills them with dread.
So you’ve gone ahead and organised a networking event or better still you’ve managed to wangle your way into one without having the headache of organising it yourself. What now? What do you do when you enter that room packed with unknown faces – all huddled into small groups. How did you break in? And how do you sound interesting? And furthermore how do you make it work for you and leave with a pocket full of useful contacts?
Here are some ideas
Plan Ahead. Everything is in the planning. Find out who is going to be attending before the event – ask the organiser to kindly send you a list of acceptances. If they send you their email address and company even better – if not then Google and LinkedIn are a great resource to find out more about the attendees and to identify who you’d be keen to speak to.
Selective Targeting. Pick a handful of people you are most interested in targeting. Contact them before the day – or that same day even and say you will be attending and you would keen to speak to them for a couple of minutes at the event and would they mind if you came to find them? Many people feel nervous at these events so knowing there is someone wanting to talk to them will probably please them and set them at ease – you may even find they seek you out!
Ensure you’re identifiable. Swap LinkedIn contacts beforehand so they can see your photo and profile and can identify you easily. Or even tell them how they can pick you out from the crowd…..somewhat easier for women to stand out with their attire than men at these events granted. Unless you are a lover of garish shirts or ties (well at least you will be memorable!)
Be interesting and interested. When you do find them–introduce yourself and try and get to know them. This is the point at which people often dry up and can’t think of things to say to keep the conversation flowing. They will be impressed when you share your knowledge about their company/personal profile. Don’t forget it doesn’t have to be all business – many working relationships develop and are strengthened because you don’t talk business all the time. Take the time to find out about their family, hobbies etc.
Introduce others and build groups. If you have met other people earlier they may be interested in being introduced to them also. Perhaps even suggesting a break-away networking lunch at a later date? If conversation comes to a natural end – say you need to go and locate someone you have just seen arrive – thank them for their time and promise to follow up with them at a later date.
Always be working the room. Keep working the room and do take opportunities to small talk at the drinks table etc - you never know who you might bump into. Introduce yourself and ask about them – offering to introduce them to others you have just met in the room.
Refer back to your notes. Don’t forget to keep referring back to your research notes and any photos you have of your target contacts – a quick visit to the loo to look at your notes and refresh your memory may well be called for!
Agree to follow up. Ask for business cards or permission to seek them out on LinkedIn and connect with them. Or perhaps they can recommend others in their network you should be talking/connecting to?
Follow up the next day. The Golden Rule is to follow up the very next day with everyone you have met, thank them for their time and suggest if it would be useful to meet them for a coffee/lunch in the near future? Also ask them if they are attending any other networking events that may be useful to you.
Keep in touch. Finally, keep in touch and when you see notices about their company, news or anything relevant to them drop them a quick email. They may just turn into your next client!
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