How to Get the Most Out of Networking Events

15 June 2016

Thanks to widespread mobile connectivity, higher-speed-than-ever broadband and the unprecedented spread of social media, the world has gotten an awful lot smaller over the last couple of decades. Many professional relationships, from first introductions to signatures on dotted lines and ongoing transactions spanning years, now solely take place virtually over their entire lifecycle. That offers massive opportunities to the modern sales organisation—opening up new markets, allowing for greater collaboration and lead sharing across teams and geographies, and saving a small fortune in travel costs.

The internet and social are valuable, but they aren’t the only relationship-building tools available. Networking events, attended in person and designed to encourage the foundation and strengthening of long-lasting, valuable business relationships can offer untold benefits if approached in the right way.

Some readers may have felt an involuntary shiver pass through them when they read the word ‘networking’, but the fact is that, even in a world as digitally connected as this one, face-to-face meetings still have an important role to play in establishing and strengthening mutually beneficial and lucrative business relationships.

The key is learning (or re-learning) how to leverage networking events properly for the results you want.

  1. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

    Attending a networking event can have one of a number of purposes. You might come away with a list of potential new suppliers to follow up with, or a new brace of sales leads, or contact details for some promising candidates—but the point is to attend with purpose. Align your attendance to key business objectives, know why you’re there and then measure your ‘success’ at the event against that aim. 
  2. Stop Thinking of Networking like Speed Dating

    Google ‘networking tips’ and you’ll get endless lists of ice breakers, many of which sound like awful chat-up lines (“I promised myself I’d talk to the most interesting looking person in the room tonight... I hope you don’t mind?”). Lasting, mutually beneficial business relationships rely on honesty and value exchange, so ditch the one-liners, introduce yourself and talk openly to people. 
  3. Ask a Mutual Acquaintance for an Introduction

    Not just a neat bit of functionality on LinkedIn, asking a mutual acquaintance for an introduction is a simple, effective way of meeting a new contact in person. Being introduced by a respected existing contact can also help to legitimise you—much easier than approaching a lead or new contact cold. 
  4. Ask More Questions

    Make a fundamental difference to how you approach networking events—think of them as opportunities to ask questions, to learn more about potential customers and partners, and to get insight and opinion on marketplace tensions and industry challenges. You’ll learn more about your new contacts, be able to spot opportunities far more easily, and avoid coming across as desperate for business or validation. 
  5. Get Cards & Make Notes

    We’ve all spent a solid day networking with people who could offer diverse and lucrative routes into new markets, complementary products and services, or mutually beneficial working practices... only to wake up with a fuzzy head and an inside pocket full of cards the next morning and no idea who was who. Take a pen and scribble a quick note on each card as you collect it—something to help you remember individuals, from physical characteristics to interesting details of your conversation with them. And if you are going to follow up do so within 48-72 hours
  6. Research, & Quality Over Quantity

    Networking events can be intimidating, particularly for the unprepared. The temptation may be to initiate too many scattergun introductions—but there is a better way. Research key attendees before you arrive. This is where social and company websites come into their own—use LinkedIn and other sources to get an overview of attendees and seek out those ‘qualified leads’ that are worth pursuing. Remember to check common connections in case someone you know can introduce you. 
  7. Enable Other Connections

    Look outwards as well as inwards—don’t just reap the benefits of an introduction by a mutual acquaintance, look for opportunities to help others with introductions too. Again, this slight shift in outlook will help you relax and make a positive impact on those that you meet.

    Networking events can be great ways to meet new leads, vendors and partners, instigate and cultivate genuine, mutually valuable relationships, and build awareness of your brand, product or service. The right event, arranged and approached the right way, can deliver substantial ROI in lead gen, improvements in morale and introductions to new markets. To talk about how we can help you to arrange yours networking event, drop us a line now through the contact page.