Published April 22, 2021
How to make the most of business networking events
Think back to the last business networking event you attended. Sure, you probably had a nice day out of the office and met some interesting people but did your attendance generate any real business value for you or your organisation? If the answer is no, (we hate to say it but) you’ve been doing it wrong. While business networking events should be fun and enjoyable ventures they should also be treated in the same way you would a project or campaign for your organisation. This means setting goals and thinking about what you want to achieve from your attendance.
Statistics show that 40% of prospects become customers after networking and face-to-face meetings and professionals who incorporate networking into their working week report it as a crucial part of their success. Networking also plays a vital role in future career progression with at least 70% of people landing their current role as a result of networking.
In order to make the most of business networking events, it’s a good idea to research, have a plan of action for the event and think about the ways in which you can leverage the knowledge and insight you’ll gain from other attendees. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of business networking events.
Research other attendees and speakers
Knowing who you’re going to potentially meet at a business event can help you decipher the right people to build a connection and rapport with. Most events will have a LinkedIn event page where people can mark themselves as an attendee and the event’s website will show you the speakers and sponsors that will be attending. Having this knowledge will help you seek out the people you want to connect with and help you create a plan to have the right conversations.
Think about the information you want to gather
Having a plan of action when attending a business networking event might sound a little extreme but it really helps, especially if you want to build relationships with certain people or accounts or even just gather leads. Before you attend the event think of a few key questions that allow you to gather the information you need, you can then work these into the conversations you have. For example, “What kind of projects are you working on right now?”, “What kinds of goals have you set for this year?”, “What brings you to this event?”. These kinds of questions seem like easy ice-breakers but they can allow you to gather a lot of information in a non-intrusive and organic way.
There’s no point going into a business networking event trying to be someone you’re not. In business, being genuine and transparent gets you a lot further than trying to maintain a facade. You want to do business and connect with people who appreciate you for you and vice versa. Avoid hard-selling and take the time to get to know people and build a relationship by taking a genuine interest.
Have a follow-up plan
When you’ve met a key business contact it’s important to carry on the conversation after the business networking event is over. To do this, think about a few clear calls to action that you can implement to keep the dialogue going. Letting a new contact know you’ll be sending over the information you’ve discussed (and let them know you’ll be waiting to hear their thoughts) or scheduling a follow-up video call is a great way of letting them know your interaction was valuable and appreciated. Following through with the promise of further conversation is one of the most important things to do when it comes to building quality business relationships. And of course, connect with them on LinkedIn. 35% of LinkedIn users say that a message on the platform has lead to a business opportunity.