When you went to your last networking event how many new people did you meet? 1, 5, 10 ?
Ok, so you spent time and money to join the local Chamber of Commerce and each time you go to a meeting, you listen to their speaker and talk to the same 3 people who hang out in the corner with you trying to avoid the sales pitches of the top 10 networkers in the meeting hall.
Why? Your time is valuable. Did you really join the Chamber just to be able to say you were a member? There are hundreds of business owners at these meetings that you don’t know or at the very least don’t talk to regularly. Here are three tips for working the networking event effectively.
1. When you get to the event, take 2 – 3 minutes at the sign in table and look for names of people you have been wanting to meet or types of businesses that you would like to meet. Someone else will be signing in while you do this. Say hello and start your networking early. This person is likely as unready as you were the last time you showed up and would love to have someone to team up with during the networking portion of the meeting. Ask them to walk with you and do the first introduction to someone you know.
2. Now you have made it to the Networking portion of the event. Time to meet your networking quota. If there are 30 minutes to network, tell yourself you want to meet 6 new people. That’s 5 minutes per person which gives you a chance to each be introduced, ask them about their business and what type of clients they are looking for. This helps them know what to ask you back that is important to you. Have your pitch ready. As the conversation begins to slow, you can use your “networking buddy” you met earlier to guide yourself away, by saying, “Please excuse us, I want to introduce “Phil” to a friend, client, …”. Now you are on your way to the next set of people to talk to without being rude.
3. Before you get to the next person, take 30 seconds to write a note on their business card which has two things on it. First, a number from 1-5, with 5 meaning that you need to follow up with them immediately and 1 meaning to save the card, but there probably isn’t much business you can do together. This will help remind you when you pull out the cards the next day what to do. Second, write some note about them personally, spouses name, they have kids, color of hair. Something to help you remember them and that you can remember to use in the next meeting if you see them again. (You can review these cards before the next Chamber meeting and won’t they be impressed that you remembered their kid plays baseball when you ask if the season is going well.)
Going to a meeting may help you meet new people, and build relationships. However working the networking event will exponentially increase your chances of building long lasting relationships. You control the flow of how the event will go, and whether or not it is beneficial. By remembering things about the people you are introduced to from event to event, and taking the time to talk to each person you wanted to builds trust and a lasting impression on those you may already know and those you may not be as affiliated with. Try these tactics out at your next networking event to improve your results.