“Networking is marketing. It is marketing yourself, your uniqueness and what you stand for.”
Networking is one of the most essential aspects of attending an event. Good, meaningful business relationships are an important takeaway from any event.
Event planners have realised the importance of networking for attendees. That is why a majority of event planners these days make sure to facilitate networking in some way or the other. It could be an ice-breaker event or a networking session.
Some go one step ahead and integrate an event networking platform with their event. These platforms have a plethora of features to help you out, making networking much simpler and convenient.
They’ve done their part. What now? At the end, it is you who has to make that effort and build your network.
How do you do that?
How do you ensure that you make the most out of the event you just attended?
Here are a few tips to help you network like a pro at your next event.
1. Join the Buzz:
Almost every event these days has some sort of online presence. It could be a social media profile, a community or its own event website or event app. As soon as you register, you become a part of this event community. So be sure to join the buzz.
Be a part of the event on every possible platform, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Some events have their own event networking platform integrated with their event website or event app to make it more convenient for the attendees. Whichever the case, it is up to you to make the most out of your event and the platform it provides.
2. Filter Your Prospects:
An event is a gathering of people from all facets of the industry. There are going to be n number of people attending the same event, all from varied backgrounds. It is up to you to filter out relevant networks. Do your research.
Check out their profiles, go through their social media posts, see what they do, what company they belong to and decide if at all there is a possible fruitful relationship to build. List down all your potential fruitful networks.This will save up a lot of time and help you acquire the right kind of contacts.
3. Join relevant communities:
Online communities are a major trend revolutionising networking as a whole. If you’re in luck and yours is an event with its own event networking platform, you will be led directly to your event community with no additional effort.
If not, try and find your event community or build one yourself. Check out the social media handles of the events listed, either on the event website or any of its signage. See if there’s a Facebook group or a Twitter hashtag for your event. Another option is to build a community for your fellow attendees on any of the relevant social media platforms.
The perks of an event community are easy interaction. You put a lot of effort into sorting out relevant communities. Now don’t let that effort go to waste. Be an active part of these groups.
Have discussions, create polls, and share helpful articles and posts. Try and connect with people from the group personally. It is essential to make your presence known and interact. A build up will make it easier to approach people more directly later on.
5. Initiate conversations:
The next step after you make your presence known and interact with people in the group is individual contact. Sort out the people you would like to approach individually and initiate a conversation with them. It can be either through private messaging across social media platforms or via e-mail.
Don’t shy away from conversations. Even at the day of the event, scout for people who seem interesting and relevant and initiate small talk. Be specific and interesting. Generic small talk makes you easily forgettable.
One key thing to keep in mind while having these conversations, online or in-person, is to be responsive. The conversation has to be two-sided. Always pay attention to what the other person says and engage them accordingly. Make them know that you’ve heard what they have to say. It makes the other person feel important and always leaves a good impression.
6. Match up schedule and arrange meetings:
According to HubSpot, 85% of event professionals say that they build stronger, more meaningful business relationships during in-person business meetings and conferences. Consider online networking as your base for arranging an in-person meeting at the event.
Once you’ve approached your prospects, have had conversations with them, try and arrange a meet-up at the event. Events with a networking platform help you schedule your meetings and keep track of it, making it simpler. If yours is an event without any such platforms, you can manually match up your schedules and set a time and place for your meeting at the event venue itself.
7. Work your way through the event:
When it comes to networking, it is necessary to use both online and offline platforms for building contacts. You’ve set your base by networking with fellow attendees online. It is very much possible that you might have missed out on certain prospects or some of your fellow attendees may not be as active online.
Be just as active on the day of the main event as well, meeting new people, getting to know about them, what they do and whether or not there is a possible work relationship in future. This is your chance to redeem what you might have missed out while networking online. Be out-going and helpful. Work your way through the event and make as many relevant contacts as you can.
In-person meetings are different from online conversations. It is better to prepare beforehand. Jot down your talking points to avoid awkward silences. Have a pitch ready if at all an opportunity comes up.
Body language too is really important while networking in person.
77% of event professionals prefer in-person conferences due to the ability to read body language and facial expressions.
One way to prepare is by reading up on body language, latest industry news and happenings. Reading relevant books, articles or blogs help in initiating meaningful discussions with insightful points that one can put forth. Overall, be prepared and confident. Confidence is the key to leaving a good impression.
9. Social media handles- the new business cards:
Exchanging business cards is a common practice at events. Whenever you have an in-person meeting or a small talk with anyone at an event, you usually ask them for their card which is necessary.
However, try and ask if they are active on Social Media. If the answer is yes, be sure to get their social media handle as well. It is easier for you to keep up with the person’s activities in future through social media. Also, sending a quick update through Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter is quicker and more pocket-friendly.
Networking is about planting relevant and meaningful relationships. Attending an event, gaining a stack of business cards or a number of connections or followers on Social Media isn’t enough. Now is when the real work begins.
Once you’ve acquired your desired contacts, make sure to nurture the relationship. Keep in touch and follow up at regular intervals. Send them a good article you read online or an update on your recent activities. Engage with their posts online or ping them at regular intervals.
“When times are tough, a client will leave you, but a friend won’t- Misner”
A good professional relationship is built only through proper nurturing.
Follow these steps and most of all, just be yourself. After all, it is your network’ that will decide your net worth.’
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