There are several reasons that people attend business networking events. Yet, most of us don’t benefit from attending these events as much as we could.
Many people go to networking meetings, or other places where they meet new people, and don't have an objective for meeting new people -- other than to just swap stories and enjoy each other's company for an hour or so.
Other people attend networking meetings with a short-term need -- such as to find new customers -- which inevitably proves fruitless.
Unfortunately, both of these approaches fall short of creating a network of contacts that can provide long-term value in addition to enjoying each other’s company.
The primary benefit of attending business networking events is to create a group of people with common interests who are open to opportunities to work together and help each other.
Like a computer network, your business network of contacts needs to be created before it can help anyone in the network.
But, you need the right network in place to help you accomplish your goals.
The first step is to decide what’s the right network for you by determining what you want to accomplish with your network.
Here are some examples of reasons to network for various types of people that may help you clarify your own business networking objectives:
- Salespeople - Obtain referrals
- Consultants – Form partnerships with other consultants
- Job seekers - Learn about job openings
- Managers and executives - identify candidates to hire, community organizations to volunteer
- Entrepreneurs - Locate potential investors and partners
- Writers - Find people to interview and story ideas
- Architects - Identify people interested having a unique house or office building
- Accountants - Learn about people who are looking to grow their company
While it's essential for you know your objectives, it's even better if the people you meet at networking events know your objectives.
So how do you go about letting the people you meet at networking events know how they can help you? The first step is to take a bland introduction and turn it into letting people know about your objectives.
Here are some introductions that can accomplish this:
- Hello, my name is [name]. I'm a marketing consultant and I'm here to help people who are interested in improving their marketing.
- Hello, my name is [name]. I'm an accountant and I'm here to learn which companies in the community are growing.
- Hello my name is [name]. I'm an architect, and I'm here to meet people who like unique homes and office building.
- My name is [name]. I'm a wedding photographer and I'm here to meet people who like photography.
Notice that none of these introductions even imply that the people you meet should feel guilty for not buying your product or service, or using your company. You want to just let people know what you do and what you’re looking for.
As you can see, it can be tough to create an introduction that doesn't look like you're there to sell everyone your product or service. However, by having your business networking objectives in mind, you'll be able to intersperse your objectives in conversations with the people you meet. The key is to not wait for the other person to get around to asking why you’re at the networking event -- share a bit about why you're there so they'll know how they can help you.
In addition to letting the people know your objectives so they can help you, it's important to be open to learning about their objectives as well.
When you meet people for the first time at a business networking event, you never know what you'll find. As you chat with someone, you might meet someone who shares your interest in a sport or hobby, someone just starting out who appreciates a few tips from you, or even someone who becomes a supportive friend. None of these people may turn into business contacts, but these personal contacts may be just as valuable personally.
Be open and let people know about you. And, be open to the possibility of meeting someone who becomes a valuable business contact and personal friend.