The thought of networking at conferences and industry events makes some entrepreneurs nauseous. If you go into it feeling uncomfortable, your results will be disastrous. Networking is a major part of being a successful entrepreneur, so it’s in your best interest to get good at it -- really, really good at it.
Here is a simple plan to make connections and unlock new opportunities by transforming into a networking beast.
1. Identify your goals before you even arrive at the event.
You should have all of your goals identified before the event.
- What are you looking to get out of the event?
- Are you there to prospect for leads?
- What attendees do you want to target?
- What speakers do you want to target?
Reach out to the targets that you know will be attending in advance. Exchange contact details and stay in touch -- plan to meet in the evening and belly up to the bar. Some of your most valuable connections will be born at the venue hotel bar.
2. Leave your sales pitch at home.
Remember that you aren’t there to sell. Avoid rambling off the reasons why your product or service is the best. Instead, ask everyone whom you speak with if there is anything you can do to help their business. This unselfish approach will leave an impression that guarantees they will answer your phone call or email after the conference.
This strategy helps you set the table for a future discussion. Don’t forget to follow up with everyone -- open up a dialogue within 72 hours of the event. This helps to ensure your encounter remains fresh in your new contact's mind.
3. Don’t sound like a robot. Let your personality shine.
Establishing a half dozen meaningful connections is better than collecting 50 business cards from people you will more than likely never speak to again. Spitting out the same script-like spiel might get you a business card, but probably just to make you go away.
Take time to engage in conversations with the goal of making an impression -- it’s that follow up after the networking event that’s important. Those are the conversations that lead to business deals and opportunities.
4. Be heard and seen.
Nobody is going to remember interacting with you unless you are memorable. If you are at a conference make an effort to ask at least one question during the Q&A session following every keynote you attend.
Don’t just fire off a fluff question -- you need to make sure your questions and interaction is intelligent. This is a great way to get on the radar of everyone in the room. People will approach you after looking to connect and they will even initiate the conversation. If you are memorable, you become a magnet, pulling in contacts from every direction.
5. Work the crowd with a partner that compliments your weaknesses.
It’s always easier to work a crowd when you have a wingman or wingwoman -- it gives you that extra confidence and if you strategically select your networking partner you can make sure you are equipped with someone that makes up for your shortcomings.
For instance, if you are shy, partner up with someone that is very outgoing. Let them open up every conversation and then introduce you to bring it home and make that new connection.
You attend networking events and conferences to make connections, right? Then use this simple plan to make sure you make the most out of every event you attend.
You can successfully network online as well -- I started EBOC to give entrepreneurs and business owners access to each other 24/7. We launch on July 15 -- if you want to be notified when we go live you can enter your email address here.
If you have any networking tips to share, please add them in the comments section below.