Networking events are a great tool for businesses, but they can also be a little bit scary. The idea of walking into a room full of strangers and trying to sell yourself can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are our tips on how to make the most of networking events, to make sure you use your time wisely, make some great connections and promote your business.
Speaking of networking events, why not put these tips into practice and join us for the Biz East Lothian Coffee Morning on 2nd November?
Before heading to a networking event, do a bit of preparation. First, find out as much information about the event as you can. Is it a casual drop-in session, is it a Q&A or panel event, is it an informal coffee morning or a sit-down lunch? Will the businesses there be local or international? Is it specifically targeted towards a certain sector or type of business?
Once you have a good idea of how the event will play out, you can make a plan of action. If it’s a more casual event, preparation will be minimal – just turn up, get chatting and enjoy yourself! But if the event has a Q&A session, you might want to pre-plan some questions to ask the panel. Or if you know important businesses in your sector will be there, you might want to do some research on them and plan how you could work together.
Every business needs and elevator pitch, and a networking event is the perfect opportunity to use it! Essentially, an elevator pitch is a short and persuasive sales pitch which describes your business, what you do and why people should use your business. It’s called an elevator pitch because the idea is you should be able to get through it in the time it would take you to get from A to B in an elevator. So, keep it short and sweet!
If you don’t already have an elevator pitch, make sure you prepare one before any upcoming networking events. Make sure you get all the key points in there, but don’t bore people. Use this as your introduction when meeting new people at the networking event.
If you’re already feeling nervous about going to a networking event, turning up alone might seem like a terrible idea. But in reality, the first few seconds will be scary – after that, you’ll soon forget about any nerves and start working your way around the room.
If you attend a networking event with a friend or colleague, you can end up just spending the whole event together and not actually speaking to anyone new. By going alone, you’ll force yourself to take the leap and strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know. Who knows – you might make a great friend or a new business associate in the process!
Speak to everyone
The purpose of a networking event is to meet new connections who might be useful for your business. Even if you meet someone great at the start of the event, don’t just spend all day with them – someone equally great might be on the other side of the room. Make sure you try to speak to everyone there to widen your network of contacts. Even if someone isn’t immediately beneficial to your business, they might end up introducing you to someone else or getting in touch further down the line when a new opportunity comes up.
Once you’ve introduced yourself to everyone and got a good idea of who’s there, you can go back and spend some more time with the people you get on best with, or the ones who will potentially be great people to know for your business.
Don’t forget your business cards! When you’re meeting lots of people in a short space of time, it can be easy to forget someone’s name or what company they work for. Make sure you don’t lose out on any opportunities because someone doesn’t know how to contact you.
Before heading to a networking event, make sure you have a fresh stack of business cards in your pocket. Hand them out to everyone, and make sure you ask for theirs too – you never know when you might need to refer back to it.
Above all, have fun. Yes, networking events are helpful business tools, but they’re also social occasions where you can meet likeminded people, enjoy some drinks and take a break from your desk. Once you’ve been to a couple of networking events, you’ll soon become much more confident and familiar with how they work, so instead of feeling nervous you can just enjoy and hour or two of chatting!