#SideHustleSeries Tip: In-person networking is the most affordable marketing you can do … and when done correctly, highly effective. Attending free Meetups and other local b2b networking events is a great way of boot-strapping your #sidehustle.
Networking events, such as trade shows, b2b socials, industry get-togethers, and club events are a great way to meet and greet and both start relationships and build new ones.
Here are 10 ways to maximize the benefits of your next networking event:
#1 – Greet Friends and Move On
Say “hi” to your known friends and colleagues and quickly get up to date on things. The key here is “quickly.” Your goal should be to re-affirm connections and then move on.
#2 – Meet New People
Your goal should be to meet new people and get to know them. This means ignoring your sales instincts and talking and listening rather than selling. Make sure your business cards are readily accessible on your person and plentiful so you can hand them out easily. Your goal is to meet new contacts, build your network, and establish the connection before moving on or bringing new people to the conversation to keep the expansion going. Be sure to make notes on or attached to a business card in order to keep your memory about who it is associated with.
#3 – Always Keep and Eye Out for Synergies
If you meet someone who isn’t a fit for you, but is for someone else you know, make the introduction as quickly as possible. Don’t be stingy about this as it is a fast way to build confidence in both your established contact and the new person you’ve met. They’ll always love you for these synergistic connections and will reciprocate when the time comes.
#4 – Get Names Down
The best way to build a relationship quickly is to know the other person’s name. They’re more likely to take the effort to then memorize yours. The simplest way is to use the business card or name tags to repeat the person’s first name in conversation two or three times to make it stick in your mind. Likely, when they see you making this effort, they’ll reciprocate. Knowing names quickly puts names to faces in later conversation after the fact.
#5 – When You Aren’t Sure, Gravitate to Food and Drink
When you aren’t sure where best to “run in” to new people, always remember that the highest traffic areas will be near food and drink. On the other hand, don’t always be eating or drinking and if you are doing one, don’t do the other – hold a drink or food, not both; you need one hand free for handshakes and business card trading.
#6 – Do Not Barge Into Groups
If someone is talking with someone else, do not barge into the conversation. Instead, wander in that direction and get next to them, but don’t cut in. Simply stand close by and be sure you’re noted without interrupting the conversation. When it’s natural, most people will let you in. Cutting in is rude and makes a bad first impression. It’s generally not a good idea to approach people deep in one-on-one conversation or somewhat hushed talking at all.
#7 – Look for the Wallflowers
At every event, there will be those who are natural wallflowers, ending up at the periphery of the room and not engaging a lot of people. These are often valuable people to know as you can not only make contact easily (they’ll be happy for the conversation), but are often very close to the others they do know and will let you in if you’re graceful.
#8 – Follow Ups Are Primary
Always follow up a conversation within two or three days in order to keep it alive. If you talk with someone at an event and then don’t contact them for weeks or months, they’ll not likely remember you when you do make the contact. Keep it fresh by contacting within 72 hours.
#9 – Develop Don’t Hoard
Develop relationships rather than just seeing how many you can make and horde business cards as a result. It’s about quality, not quantity. Someone can know a hundred people in the business but have a near-useless network because most of them don’t know him or her. Another person might only know ten people, but they’re well-known and complementary, so the network is firm and profitable for all.
#10 – Stay Professional
Finally, remember that you’re at these events to network and build relationships, not party and tell war stories of your questionable youth. Too many people attend networking events and end up becoming the somewhat embarrassing “partier” who goes a little too far. Don’t be that person.
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