So, You Met at a Networking Event? Now What?
In my role as an executive coach and business consultant, I’m ALWAYS amazed how little advance planning most business owners and professionals invest in their professional networking. They receive an email from a MeetUp or LinkedIn group, or a professional trade association, Chamber of Commerce, or Merchant Association they belong to. If their schedule permits, they sign up to attend. In a previous post that I wrote about business networking, there were some great comments posted by others saying many people hate networking or simply don’t know how to network. The mistake most people make when they network is, they equate networking with selling. It’s not! Networking is all about making relationships and seeing if there is a way that you can help people to overcome their challenges.
As far as how to approach networking from a strategic standpoint, I advise my clients to treat any networking event the same way as you’d treat a marketing event. Approach each event you attend like it is a three-stage process. Here’s how…
STEP 1: The PRE Event:
The first step is the pre event. Find out who is going to attend, are there any speakers you want to hear or topics being covered that you are looking to learn more about. Next, as part of the PRE event reach out to the attendees, exhibitors, panelists, and speakers that are participating, in order to make an initial introduction. Do research on them to personalize your correspondence. Invite them to join you on your social media outlets. Next, promote the fact that you are attending the upcoming event by emailing folks you know who might like to attend, and let your social media contacts also know you’re going.
STEP 2: The EVENT Itself:
Then the second stage is the actual event. Seek out the people you contacted when you signed up, and make introductions. Spend time talking about THEM…not YOU. Why are they attending, what do they want to get out of the event, what are their key challenges. You should have as a general rule a strategic plan that you’ll talk to each person for about 10 minutes. If you feel that you can
hep them the goal of such a conversation is to schedule a follow meeting.
A long time ago I learned about an approach to networking which is simply BRILLIANT. Think of your approach to networking success as the “5-2-1” rule. In your introductions, what you say in the first five seconds you are talking MUST be so engaging and compelling that they respond: “Wow, tell me more!” During the critical next few (TWO) minutes you should expand on your introduction. After that two minute introduction, you let them talk about themselves and their challenges. The next step should be to set up a (ONE hour) meeting at a later date. That is the “5-2-1” rule, and it’s a great guideline for providing structure to any conversation you might have at a networking event.
STEP 3: The POST Event:
So, you leave the event. You spoke to a few great prospects, obtained their business cards, and maybe even scanned each others’ quick response code on your business cards. Now what?
Go to your social media and give a shout out to the particularly interesting (attractive) leads you met. Send them an email where you remind them what you talked about. Show you’ve done more research on their challenges, and invite them for coffee/tea (your treat!) to chat further. Send invitations where appropriate and always take the position: “HOW CAN I HELP THEM?”
Here’s to your success in starting a new business in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach