Top 10 tips: Getting the most out of business networking events
Co-founder of Entrepreneurs' Business Academy, Bev James offers her advice
Business networking events can be a great way to boost your business’ reputation, meet potential partners, suppliers or investors and even win new customers. But if you don’t pick the right events, and aren’t willing to talk to new people, you won’t get much out of them. Bev James, who co-founded the Entrepreneurs’ Business Academy with James Caan, offers her top 10 tips on making sure networking events give you a good return on the time invested:
- Before you attend networking events, think about the true purpose of them. There is a reason it’s called networking – it is not a social event. So if there is alcohol available, make sure you limit your intake, or it might be best to avoid it altogether. Also consider your industry and target customers before deciding to attend an event – is it right for your business?
- With each event, you should prepare yourself thoroughly and go in with a plan. Find out who is attending the event beforehand and who the key speakers are. If possible try to get a list of the attendees so you can decide who you really want to meet – you don’t want to end up talking to the same person for ages if there’s no common ground between you. It might be worth asking whoever is organising the event to introduce you to a particular person you want to meet.
- Positioning is important. Always ensure you are facing out at an event, rather than having your back to the group, so you can keep an eye on others around you.
- Try to take control of conversations by asking people questions. People often make the mistake of talking about themselves straight away, but it’s best to find out what others do and then try to link it to yourself by asking if there is anything you can help them with. But remember, no one wants to be overtly sold to at a networking event.
- Less is more – it is better to speak to fewer people and form some quality connections than speaking to lots of people for a short time – unless of course, you’re at a speed networking event where brief bursts of conversation with different people are the plan.
- Always have a professional-looking business card ready to hand out to contacts you make. People often judge a business by its card so invest time and money yours. A bad business card can give the impression that you don’t invest time or effort in your own business. Depending on what kind of industry you’re in, consider putting your photo on your card because it can help people remember who you are, however make sure you get a professional photo taken – it is better to have no picture than a bad one. However, photos on cards aren’t to everyone’s tastes so think about how this would fit in with your company’s brand.
- Try to do favours for interesting people you meet, such as introducing them to other people or businesses you know. People are much more likely to remember you if you do something nice for them.
- After the networking event, question yourself on how it went and who you met that you’d like to keep up with or potentially do business with.
- If you meet someone interesting, Google them, follow them on Twitter, maybe re-tweet them, subscribe to their newsletter – it’s all about showing an interest in what someone else is doing.
- Make contact quickly with people you have met at an event – preferably within a couple of days. There’s no point in getting in contact four weeks later after you find their card in your pocket, because the chances are they won’t remember you.