Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Stephen P Smith.
Author’s Note: The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, “Work. Smarter!” which will be available in May. You can pre-order a paperback edition of the book, along with a special coaching opportunity for any of the book’s topics here – The Work Smarter Book Pre-Order.
I am looking forward to the launch and helping people get a grip on their work.
I am a big fan of the Chamber of Commerce. Part of the reason is the opportunity to meet other business people in a relaxed social setting at the regular get-togethers such as Business After Hours, Lunch-and-Learn, or Breakfast Seminars.
Sometimes these meetings have a structure, with a focused presentation, other times they are more free-form with food and beverages. All the time they are a great way to meet others in your community that you can work with, or can send more business your way.
I always attend a networking event with two goals in mind:
By following these steps I have often been able to help others create business relationships and establish myself as a Connector. This often brings people (and business opportunities!) to me that I may never have had the chance to meet otherwise. The most popular type of networking event is the Business After Hours which has some excellent opportunities as well as its own special pitfalls to watch out for.
One thing to remember – have a good supply of business cards with you. So many people do not bring cards with them, and they miss out on opportunities. I also recommend having a short stack of 3″x5″ cards in your pocket for writing quick notes about the people that you meet.
Your typical Business After Hours is an unstructured event with some finger food and a beer/wine bar. We can look at an event like this as having two main challenges and three primary opportunities.
As you can see, the challenges are insidious in that they are so easy to fall into. Stay focused on your own goals and you will be able to get the most out of your attendance and reap the benefits of the opportunities that the event can deliver.
The primary opportunities of a Business After Hours event can build your authority, credibility and your bottom line. Have your elevator pitch ready to deploy!
Most people that attend these events are looking to sell something, that something being their product or service. You need to attend the Business After Hours with the goal of selling yourself – not your business, not your new product. Use the networking event to sell “Brand You” and set times for follow-up with the people that you meet.
These follow-up meetings or calls are the time for selling your business.
Letting the other person talk, and actively listening, is a good way of beginning to build a rapport with a new person. People do like the sound of their own voice.
Phil has written a fantastic article about exactly how to follow up after a networking event here, at the end of the post on “Why I Hate Your Newsletter“. Specifically:
“Personally email each person you met at the networking – Follow up is where most networkers (myself sometimes included) fall down. Make time that night or the very next day and send a personal two paragraph e-mail to each person you connected with. Paragraph 1 should include something you enjoyed about the other person. Paragraph 2 should be asking them for that coffee date, and offer 2 mornings and 2 afternoons that work for you in the next 2 weeks. Make sure to include your email signature in case a curious person wants to learn a little more about you.
Attend the coffee meeting with a notebook and pen and some questions about their business – Show up early to make sure you get a spot both of you can sit at, and be prepared to ask some good questions about their business and their role in it, some things you CAN’T find out on their website. Ask if you may take notes (it makes some people nervous, that’s why you ask first) and write down key points. This is NOT meant to be a grilling session, so if you bring out your order pad, you are going to scare this person away. Find out what their biggest goal is for this year and think about how you might be able to help them achieve it. Pleasure is WAY more fun than pain if you ask me.”
Do you have a networking event coming up? What are some of your own, personal strategies for meeting new people and incorporating them into your network?
Share in the comments.
About the author: Stephen Smith teaches Productivity and Social Media Literacy skills at In Context MultiMedia. He will be publishing a compilation of best practices based on his popular Weekly Letterin May 2012.
You can follow him on Twitter at @hdbbstephen.