As we make plans and think about the business year ahead, attending networking events is probably on your to do list.
Networking events take various forms; from open networking where you just turn up and start working the room to structured formats where you may have a chance to introduce yourself or listen to speakers?
Not all events will suit your business, so its worth attending a variety so that you find out what works best for you, ask your existing contacts for suggestions of good events. you may not know it but you will probably have some super networkers in already in your circle.
Whatever the format, its important that you know what you are attending. And why!
Define your goals
Ask anyone who regularly attends networking events and they will tell you that networking is about building relationships, getting to know what services are available out there; So if your goal is to turn up to a networking event and walk out with 100 new clients, you;re probably going to be disappointed.
But you should still be clear as to why you are going along in the first place so you don’t find yourself wasting time.
For some, especially those who work alone, it can be building contacts and finding out what professional services are available while getting some human interaction; some may be looking for co-collaborators for projects or you may just want to increase your own visibility.
Whatever your own reasons, keep them in mind when you are attending.
identify your network
Networking is all about building relationships so before attending it can be useful to identify who you are looking to connect with.
There is a great quote by Dr. Ivan Minser, founder of BNI, Business Networking International
“Never underestimate the depth of the pool that your fellow networkers are swimming in”
Simply put, if you are making connections, even if they aren’t interested in or able to use your services, they may be connected to people who can and personal recommendations are stronger than almost any other form of advertising.
You can have the best service in the world, but if nobody knows about it, you wont achieve your goals.
So you have to get out there and start talking to folks.
To find events near you you can search on event sites such as eventbrite.