The rise in different online networking platforms has not affected the number of places that you can network offline or meet and talk to new prospects as you may prefer to phrase it.
Some of my clients complain that networking doesn't work. This is the checklist that I run through with them.
1. Is the network the right place for you?
To the networking naive there exists a person; a decision maker with a budget who is intent on going to a networking meeting purely to source new suppliers. It happens of course but it's best not to base your whole networking appraisal on it.
Better to go prepared to get to know your fellow networkers black contact book. Seven degrees of separation really does exist. In my 20 years' experience of going to networking events I have seen contacts come together; 100 000 k contracts being fulfilled by various partners coming together.
What if the people of the room have no contacts? It's a sad fact that not all people will be useful to you. I don't want to be all Darwinian about this but if you realise early on that even though these people are very nice, they don't mix with the people that you want to do business with then it may be worth investigating other networking opportunities. To help you with your appraisal process we have prepared a networking cost benefit sheet (link).
2. Prepare beforehand
I have done this many times. I have just turned up at an event hoping for the best. This will never work.
Drill down to know what you want from the event. Prepare well so that you know who you are (first name - no one tends to listen to surnames, sector area (what would you be classified under in the Yellow pages - if you can remember), and what makes you special. The more you prepare the more comfortable you feel - the more human you come over, the more likely it will be that you will be in receive mode as opposed to transmit only.
If you are required to do a one-minute pitch (or less) please outline the points you want to put across. Try and be extemporaneous - so that you don't sound like an auto Tron and be specific. People tend to be self-absorbed and don't have an imagination. Be as prescriptive as possible and it may just trigger something in the depths of their contact library.
A little tip I was given: don't reference other people's pitches in your pitch. I thought this was counter intuitive (particularly as a text book people pleaser) but they made the case that this highlights you haven't prepared; it shouts, 'the dog ate my homework'.
What do you want from the event? If you don't know what you want to achieve then you will not know if the networking exercise is successful.
A good friend of mine looks to do the following:
*Catch up with 3 existing contacts *Meet one potential introducer/strategic alliance *1 new contact who could be developed into a prospect
If you get a list of attendees beforehand look to see ascertain if there is anyone that you would like to connect with via LinkedIn. If you feel comfortable doing this do it.
3. Follow up
Look to be a facilitator extraordinaire and get a reputation as a facilitator; someone who knows people. You can become a very popular beacon. If you do introduce people, then try as best as possible to find out if anything positive came of the introduction.
One of the best networkers I know does this to great effect. I have been introduced to some great contacts via this chap consequently I get excited when I see one of his emails drop into my inbox.
The best networkers I know follow up. I don't mean a pushy sales email we had a coffee at 6.30 am in the morning therefore you MUST buy from me but rather electronic evidence that you were listening to your fellow networker and, ideally, electronically introduce them to some of your other relevant contacts.
Index the business cards you collect (but ensure you do this while being GDPR compliant) and where appropriate connect with them via social media.
Complete all your follow up within 12 hours of leaving the networking event. If you don't there is an extremely high chance of you not doing it.