A strong and varied network is essential in business, but even the thought of networking fills many accountants and small business owners with dread. How should you approach a networking event to get the most out of it?
1. Choose the Right Event
As a business owner time is money so it’s vital that you pick the right events. Think about what you want to achieve by attending; Brand awareness? Potential new customers? Other businesses to collaborate with? Your goal will help you determine which events are best for your company and where you are likely to get the best bang for your buck. And on that note, remember that if you’re not the customer, you are the product! Free events can be great however, you will usually have to give your companies details away to attend. Make sure you’re happy with that. Also, consider that businesses that cannot afford paid events may not be able to afford your services either.
Well organised events will be using social media to promote themselves ahead of time. Look at who is following these and using the events #hashtag- there’s a good chance they’ll be there. Think about the objectives you’ve set and who could help you achieve them. Reach out to these people too, or the event hosts:
When I arrive several of the attendees I met had seen my message – it was a very simple way to break the ice.
3. Arrive on Time
Or a few minutes after the start. Being early doesn’t help here (unless you have something to prepare or set up on site). The hosts will be busy setting up and organising and may not have time to speak to you, meaning you could be stood in the room alone…not a good way to build confidence!
I usually arrive about 5-15 minutes after the start time. This gives everyone time to get up and running and start to have a few conversations. There’s usually a short queue for the drinks and nibbles at this point which is a great opportunity to make some small talk with other attendees. It goes without saying that you should be on time for any talks or presentations! Arrive in plenty of time to speak to others ahead of these.
4. Talk to People…and Listen!
This is the bit you’ve been dreading…but the chances are most of the room are too! Once you’ve done it once or twice you’ll be flying along like a pro! Look for individuals or groups of three people – it is likely two of them will be talking and the third will be glad to engage with you.
“Hi! I’m Andy, Founder of Octopus Blue. We offer consultancy and mentoring services for business software companies, accountants and start-ups. What do you do?”
Listen to what they say and respond to that. You will be better remembered as someone who listened to what they said then as someone who spouted out a sales pitch.
Remember you’re both there to meet your business goals. If you have nothing to offer each other, that’s ok. Politely say what you’re at the event for and that you’d like to speak to more people.
“Your cake decorating business sounds great – I’ll look you up when I next have a special occasion. I need to meet finance experts today, so please excuse me. Enjoy the rest of the event.”
5. Exchange Contact Details
If you have a common interest, great! You both now have a new connection and have identified an opportunity to work together. You could carry on talking about this for hours, but then you’d miss out on other potential opportunities. Exchange business cards/ contact details and suggest how you might follow up. For example, a call next week or meeting for coffee.
You’ll likely have lots of business cards. Identify the most important ones in some way – make a brief note on the card or fold the corner over so that you can easily find them again later.
6. Post Show Follow Up
This is where so many people fall down. They’ve done the hard work and have a whole bunch of potential leads and new business opportunities, but they don’t follow them up. What a waste! Over the next few days contact the people you met. Some will contact you, and it makes you feel important and valuable. You’ll give that same feeling to the people you contact. Call if you have something to offer or discuss, email or send a LinkedIn message or invite if you’d like to meet in the future. Without this step, the effort you’ve put into the 5 earlier steps will be wasted.
Networking doesn’t have to be scary. People do business with people, so networking events are important to growing your business. Follow these 6 simple steps and you’ll soon be a pro!
- Consider your business objectives and chose the right event
- Research and reach out to the hosts and attendees via social media beforehand
- Arrive shortly after the event starts
- Talk to people! And listen to what they can offer
- Exchange contact details
- Get in touch with the people you met
Leave your tips and experiences in the comments below and maybe we can start a new conversation!
Octopus Blue will help you to expand your business network, with consultancy and advisory services to help define and monitor your company vision and mentoring services to assist you and your team achieve them.
Contact email@example.com 07974 717713 to discuss further.