Do you worry about wasting time at networking events? Or maybe you enjoy going, but all you’re doing while you’re there is socializing. You might even be someone that knows you need to network more, but then stand by yourself and talk to almost no one.
If any of those fit you, then you’re not really networking at those events, you’re just not working. So what’s the secret to making sure you’re really utilizing those networking events like the master networkers do?
Have a system for deciding what events to go to, what you’ll do while you’re there, following up, and how to evaluate if it was successful or not.
When thinking about networking events, you should ask yourself some key questions.
The first thing you need to do when thinking about networking events is look at who’s attending. A good crowd may fit into several categories:
- They are highly likely to be your target market.
- They are highly likely to have influence over people in your target market.
- They are centers of influence with contacts in either of the first two categories.
If they don’t fit into one of those three categories, that may not be an event you really need to go to.
What’s the plan?
Next, you need to do is make a plan to achieve specific goals at the event. If you go to an event with no specific plan or goals, then you’re definitely not-working. And most positive networking experiences can be attributed to clearly defined goals and strategies for achieving those goals.
When making your plan, keep in mind that going to networking events is not selling. It’s prospecting. And like many other prospecting activities, all you’re trying to do is see who you need to set appointments with. That’s it.
Remember, it’s not about quantity, but about quality. It’s much better for you to spend two hours really connecting with someone who could potentially refer clients, than to pass business cards out to as many people as you can. In fact, the only time I give out a business card is if someone specifically asks for one, or if I ask for one of their cards first.
Did it work?
After the networking event, you need to evaluate how it went. Did you accomplish your goals? If not, was it because of the event, or was it your fault? What should you do differently next time? If you did accomplish your goals, what did you do right?
Evaluate the things that worked for you, and those that didn’t work. Learn from your mistakes, and learn from your successes.
Follow up with your contacts after the event! Connect with them on LinkedIn, invite them out for a cup of coffee, or introduce them to a potential client or strategic partner. Or do all of those things.
And as all master networkers know, true networking is not just going to networking events. It’s the process you use to build an ongoing stream of qualified referrals.
© 2012 Sandler Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.