So why are you going to that networking event?
Sometimes it’s because it’s in your calendar. You thought to yourself “I should do some networking” or even more likely, you saw an invitation to an event that looked good enough for you to spend your valuable time. Factors that may have affected your decision to choose this one:
- You can write this off as an expense
- A colleague of yours suggested you go along
- You know people who are going and you want to catchup with them
- There should be some good people there
- It’s at a venue you wanted to go to or that looks good anyway
- There are free drinks or food
- You see there is a speaker there who you think you can learn from
- Or, my favourite (and the main reason I go to networking events nowadays): You are the speaker at the event.
So, what can you do to prepare?
Take an hour. Go on, take an extra hour. Not to choose the best clothes (or do makeup and hair) but an extra hour. Where is this hour going to come from – I hear you cry! – I don’t know, wake up at 5am like Robin Sharma says!
Ok, I have fought for you to do this hour, not here’s how we are going to fill it.
Let’s prepare for this event, I promise you it will be worth it. Want to be even more time efficient? Do this for the next 3 networking events you are attending, I bet you can still use the same hour!
Your 6 point researching a networking event checklist:
- See who the speaker is, and look them up on Twitter and LinkedIn
- Check the event page online and see whether you can see anything about the other attendees. For example, events which have been put onto Eventbrite or Meetup actually show the people who are attending (with Eventbrite it’s just people you are friends with on Facebook who happen to say they are coming)
- Check out the profiles of anything else interesting on LinkedIn
- See if there is a LinkedIn group for the event and if it’s an open one, join it, if you like!
- Tell your online network you are going! Yes, use Twitter and include the hashtag for the event, and the organiser’s Twitter handle – for example “I am really excited to be going to the #EpicNetworking event at the @LondonENC next Thursday. If you’re coming too, tweet me!”
Now you are ready, and I promise this event will mean so much more to you. Because you have put the time in to preparing, you will have the right mindset, you will bring the right energy to the event, and you will do your follow up!
Follow up – even more important than preparation
I find that for every networking event I go to, even those which aren’t “the best use of my time” and which I attended for the wrong reason (my friend was going and asked me along) still meet people who are valuable to me. The people you end up having a meaningful conversation with.
If you can hold a conversation with someone for 20 minutes at an event, then you have SOMEthings in common. And, you’d be surprised, we are more alike than youd think. So, this new connection you have, or these few new connections you have – what do you do with them?
Time for the follow up checklist!
- You can immediately connect with them on LinkedIn – and write a personalised connection message.
- If you promised them at the event you would send them a link to a book/event/more information/an introduction to someone, then do this too – it will make you seem thoughtful and reliable (and people like those qualities)
- If you use Twitter, as a quick follow up, send a group tweet to the people you met who you know also use Twitter
- You can also add them to a Twitter list (eg – “People I met while networking” or similar)
- Check out their LinkedIn profile and if they are on Twitter, their tweets (and follow them and say hi there)
- Once you have done this – decide – are they someone you want to meet again in the next 3 months? 6 months? Decide, and either ask them for a coffee/lunch/drinks/another event now, or make a note to do so in future.
- My advice though – strike while the iron is hot – after all – why did you go to that event if it wasn’t to meet new people?
- You can ask yourself if you think there is potential there for a fruitful business relationship – and hopefully friendship. If you are on the same wavelength, then why not add them to your life? I have many friends now who started out as people I met at networking events, or who I initially met on Twitter.
It is so much easier if you can say you are friends with someone as well. If you enjoy their company, you make more of an effort with meeting up with them, and that’s what makes business fun!
So, that’s it. Useful tips so you make the most of your networking time. Waste less time networking, spend more time connecting, and let me know how it goes!