The title pretty much sums up the main plus points of any networking event. But, not all events you attend are likely to be a success. Some will leave you resentful that you have wasted time out of your day on such an omnishambles of uninspiring chat and soggy canapes. That’s OK though; accept the annoyance and move on, not to be deterred for future opportunities.
Networking can feel a bit like dating: awkward, intimidating and having people tell you that for best results you must ‘put yourself out there’. Sure. Similarly to dating, there are the usual culprits within the networking arena who have cultivated a persona; the serial networker, the one who only goes for the freebies, the enthusiast etc. BUT, there will be some triumphs and you can certainly meet great people for your business, whether they become clients or not. This is another thing to bear in mind – networking won’t always lead to clients per se, but you may meet some valuable contacts whose introductions to others will build foundations for potential business opportunities.
With this in mind, there are a few sure fire ways to make the most out of networking. Firstly, be picky (still sounds like dating, doesn’t it?). This may sound obvious, but it’s important to know your worth and relevance within the market. If you’re a start-up hedge fund there isn’t much benefit in attending a Health and Wellness Brand Awareness event, despite the promises of meeting like minded folk and free wine. There are lots of non-specific events that can be of use, again though the key is to filter them and find out who is speaking, the agenda, the focus and the attendees – most of which can be found easily.
Keeping on top of your own personal focus; why are you attending and what do you want to achieve? Is it to get your company name around and give out business cards, to meet potential investors, find new staff with certain expertise? Having a solid aim gives these events a purpose and reduce the chance of you bumbling around aimlessly asking people what they do with no real desire to know…
Another way of easy interaction, without feeling like you’re being forced to talk to your boring auntie at a family do, is to ask for advice. Do you have a particular area you’re struggling with in your own business – SEO, recruitment or accounting, for example, that could be discussed with another? Asking people how they do things is not only flattering, it opens up a whole dialogue of back and forth whilst allowing some genuinely useful tips to come your way.
It’s easy to assume that you sound contrived but don’t forget the power of face-to-face contact. Everyone in the room wants this to be as painless as possible and for the conversation to flow – nobody wants to be bored. Finally, with everything in life, it’s nice to be nice; offer your own services and motivation to others. The power of creativity and excitement shouldn’t be underestimated and can spark plenty of future ideas and plans, with or without the networking comrades you meet along the way.