“Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.”
Is it safe to say that we are now in the midst of the ‘new normal’?
When the pandemic started there was a period of time we wished for things to be back to ‘normal’, whatever that meant for each of us. Then, at some point, I think we all came to the realization that there would be a new normal- do you think we’re there yet?
I think the move to online and virtual networking is a good thing. I mean the quote above 👆🏻 by Mr. Dickens is very truthful, but then again, he never envisioned a world where we could face someone electronically AND visually even though we are long distances apart.
But I digress. Are we there yet? I think we are. I’ve attended and been invited to more in-person events and meetings recently and the organizers are saying that the ‘hybrid’ meeting model doesn’t seem to work- they are either going all in-person or all virtual, no in-between.
So, in the spirit of “All Selling Is Social” I wanted to bring some reminders of how to ensure you have a successful, in-person, networking event. These are tips and strategies that I’ve been taught over the years and some of my own advice thrown in.
BEGIN WITH END IN MIND
Determine ahead of time the type of event you’re attending and if there are expectations from the event organizers. Will the event just be a meet and greet or will there be an educational presentation? If there is an educational element, is that element targeting a specific industry, business type or demographic? Then ask yourself if your type of client/prospect/networking partner would be in attendance for this type of education? That will help you determine if your time would be best spent at the event, or doing other activities.
Once you’ve determined to go, see if there is a Facebook or LinkedIn event created and then make a note of those who have marked themselves as attending. If those that are attending are ideal prospects for you, do some research on their company as well as on them. This information isn’t for you to ambush them and show them how much you know about them (that’s creepy), it’s so you have that information so you can better ask questions and inquire about them.
AT THE EVENT
Get out of your comfort zone! As you’ve done your research beforehand, have a goal of meeting a certain number of new people. Our tendency is to gravitate towards those we already know and make small talk with them, and this does nothing for our network building.
Look for people you don’t know, especially those who might be standing all alone and looking uncomfortable. Think of yourself as the ‘welcome wagon’- you’re going to be the lifeline for that person and make them feel comfortable and welcome.
Make sure you’re curious about the people you’re talking to. Don’t just talk about the weather, or sports or whatever buzz word topic that starts the conversation. Find out some of their goals. A great questions this time of year is centered around it being the last quarter of 2022 already- how is their year going professionally? What 2-3 things need to happen between now and December 31st in order for them to say that 2022 was a successful year?
These questions will spark conversations, and that is what you’re going for.
Whatever you do, don’t pitch your company or product or solution unless asked specifically for details. What you want to do is work towards a second meeting that’s one-on-one with the person to dive deeper into them and their business.
Don’t interrogate the person. No one wants to be peppered with question after question. This can seem intrusive. Allow the other person to reply and ask their own questions and look for an opportunity to turn the conversation back to them.
Use technology at the event. Did you know that on the LinkedIn mobile app that you have a personal QR code for you profile in order to quick-connect with people? Just make sure send a note after connecting to remind yourself where you met them.
Also, use old fashion tech- have business cards with you because not everyone wants to add your contact information to their mobile phone. If you collect business cards keep them in one location for follow up after the event.
If there’s an educational element make sure you stay engaged. Even if the topic isn’t in your wheelhouse, don’t scroll your phone or your computer. Take notes, ask questions. Be respectful of the presenter’s time as well as the organizer’s efforts in bringing this to the group.
Before you leave the venue, make sure you touch base with those you connected with and discuss what the next best step with each of them should be. If they have the time and they are willing, I’d put something on the calendar right then and there. But, if you or they are in a hurry, make sure you finalize at least how you’re going to go about setting up the next meeting.
AFTER THE EVENT
As soon as you’re able make sure you do what you said you were going to do. If you said you would follow up with a phone call, make the call. An email? Send the email. A LinkedIn connection request? Send the invite.
Too often, we make these promises when we’re talking to someone and then have ‘networker’s remorse’- we think about that person and talk ourselves out of contacting them for whatever reason. Here are a few:
“They are too busy”
“I don’t want to bother them”
“They won’t buy from me”
And a host of others. Here’s the thing: this is where we start building credibility as a potential networking partner. This is where integrity is built. Do what you say you’re going to do.
If you collected business cards, take them out as soon as you get back to your desk and sort them out by tasks (phone calls, emails, LinkedIn invites) and then do those tasks before you do anything.
Next week I’ll discuss some tips about networking online and during virtual events.
You can probably guess that there’s not much a difference in the how, just the medium we use for the event. But we’ll save that for next week!
Originally published on Bill McCormick’s LinkedIn.