Forming and maintaining relationships is paramount
Forming and maintaining relationships is paramount to creating a network full of mutually beneficial business contacts.
Building trust can take considerable time and effort, so networking events can be a great opportunity to cut this time down. They are an opportunity to meet new people in your field, share who you are and what you do, pick up new information and gain some valuable contacts in a less formal environment.
With this in mind, we wanted to share with you the top 4 before and after tips that we use to make each networking event we attend a success.
Before you go:
1. Research the right event for you
This may be the most important tip, as time is precious, there is nothing worse than getting to a networking event and realising there is no synergy between your goals and either the people at the event or the event itself. There are so many different events you could attend, from free events to paid events, speed networking to panel discussions, targeted connections or even roundtables. So, use all the resources available to you to make sure you are attending the right event. If possible I like to make sure I contact the event organiser prior to each event to get as much information as possible on the event and expected attendees to make sure it is the right event for me to achieve my goals.
2. Clearly define your objectives for the event
The last thing you want to do at a networking event is walk around aimlessly and let the occasion pass you by. I typically set myself 2 main goals:
- Speak to a certain number of new people, 5-10 minimum depending on the size of the event
- Make at least 1 new warm job lead. This way you can stay focused and feel accomplished when you are done.
3. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date
Having an up-to-date LinkedIn profile is important and make sure represents you and/or your company in the best light. In 2022, your LinkedIn profile is your virtual business card, with the new QR code feature you can add new contacts to your network with ease.
An up-to-date LinkedIn profile allows your new connections to find out additional details about you that show unexpected commonalities - maybe you went to the same university or have several mutual connections.
4. Dress appropriately
You only get one chance to make a good first impression.
Be yourself but also stay professional setting so keep it simple: t-shirt/shirt, jeans/chinos, smart trainers, avoid hats and keep a light jacket for the winter events. This is tech so no need to go suited and booted.
After the event:
1. Review new connections and make notes
To maximise the event, I like to review my new connections on my journey home from the event, either through their online profiles so that I can see if we have any mutual connections or via their business cards, and then start to make notes on what we spoke about so that my follow up message is as unique as possible.
2. Personalised follow up
For optimal results, make sure you send your follow up message the morning after the event. This is why making notes immediately after the event is so useful, now you can tailor a message to your connection that could only come from you. The message doesn't have to be about the value you would look to bring or regarding what they are looking for but instead could be about something you shared that you have in common, especially as an opener. It shows you were actually listening to them and builds trust.
3. Schedule a face-to-face follow up
Now you've made the connection, it's time to actualise it. This could be at a convenient coffee shop, or at either of your offices. Yes, it's 2022 and virtual meetings are the trend but now you have built that trust, meeting face-to-face again is the best way to differentiate yourself from the field, no-one else will have the ability to make the same impact as you when you have face-to-face time with your new connection.
4. Provide value
At the end of the day, networking is all about providing value. Do you know the answer to a solution they've been searching for? Can you provide your expertise, product or talent to help them overcome a challenge? Can you connect them to someone in your network who may be better served to help them? What types of opportunities can you offer them? These are all questions I prepare and want to have answers to by the end of my follow up face-to-face meeting.
Regardless of how you feel an event went, there can always be areas to improve upon. It's good to reflect on what these areas might be.
- Did you listen enough and not just talk about yourself?
- Did you listen to respond or did you listen to understand?
- Did you speak to everyone possible?
- How was your body language?
- Were you able to quickly, and clearly, explain what it is you do?
I hope you can use these tips and tricks to improve your networking results, craft more memorable follow-ups and build some great connections!