How to Make the Most of Networking. In Blackboard Fridays Episode 122, Jacob talks about Marketing and Sales. Need this implemented into your business? Talk to the international business advisor who can do exactly that – Contact Jacob, Learn More, or Subscribe for Updates.
Who is Jacob Aldridge, Business Coach?
“The smart and quirky advisor who gets sh!t done in business.” Back independent since 2019.
Since April 2006, I’ve been an international business advisor providing bespoke solutions for privately-owned businesses with 12-96 employees.
At this stage you have proven your business model, but you’re struggling to turn aspirations into day-to-day reality. You are still responsible for all 28 areas of your business, but you don’t have the time or budget to hire 28 different experts.
You need 1 person you can trust who can show you how everything in your business is connected, and which areas to prioritise first.
It comes as a surprise to a lot of people to learn that I’m an introvert. That I don’t naturally bring the energy you might get on camera into an interaction with other real-life human beings. I find networking events, a lot of functions to be quite exhausting. It’s not what I do to replenish my energy. I’m like an extrovert, who actually needs some of that engagement to top themselves up.
Now I share that with you so that you understand that when I talk through today’s episode and some of the tips tricks and strategies you can apply to get the most out of networking events. Do you understand this hasn’t been created by somebody who does this naturally. This has been created by somebody me, who spent many years struggling to work with these events, and to actually justify whether to go at all.
And that’s the first thing you need to ask yourself when it comes to networking events. Why do you want to build your network? What’s the purpose of having a network for your business, your team, and the two main reasons that I find are around creating opportunities, opportunities for clients for referrals and also for raising your profile.
The reality is my belief anyway, activity breeds activity. Sometimes it’s getting out of your office, going to an event, going and having a coffee meeting, doing that kind of activity that spurs on even more activity that ultimately leads to the work that you’re chasing or the ideal client that you may desire.
So there is definitely a benefit in going along to events to create that activity if you don’t have enough going on. Realize that you already have a network. You already have connections, you already have relationships. And so sometimes if you’re struggling to justify going to a networking event, you may need to ask yourself what can I do with my existing network to deepen those relationships rather than going out here and creating a whole lot of new ones.
You may find one on one, so say coffee meetings and catchups deliver a much better impact than going out here, but if your existing network isn’t big enough, isn’t creating enough opportunity, then you absolutely do need to go and fish in new ponds, and networking events can be a great way to do that, because everybody else there is also looking to create those relationships.
So if you’re going to go to a networking event, how do you make the most of it and not waste your energy and your time. And I’ve got six key tips that I will share. The first of those is to make sure you are really clear about why you’re going to this event. Now specifically why this event?
Make sure you’re going to networking events that actually overlap with your areas of interest or your target clients. There’s no point going to a knitting class if you’re selling arms to Iran. You’re just not going to get an overlap of the network you need to build even if you add three people to your LinkedIn profile. So why are you going and be clear on that. I’m looking for introductions. I’m looking for new clients, for opportunities or maybe I’m just looking to learn.
And this segues in to step number two. When you meet people, when you create a conversation do not please sit there and ask them what they do, where they live, or how long they’ve been in business. Those are boring questions and they’re also not helpful. They’re not helpful for them. They’re not helpful for you.
The question you want to ask people when you meet them at these events is why are you here? What brought you along to this event this evening? What are you hoping to get out of tonight? Because that will open up a conversation.
You may discover that the two of you are looking for complimentary things. Fantastic relationship or as you go around of an evening and make these other connections you can start connecting people. You’re here because you want to sell your graphic design services and that person over there is here because they’re looking for a graphic designer. You two need to meet.
Creating those kind of opportunities improves your profile enormously. If you are struggling to start up a conversation, two skills that I recommend are the wallflowers and the extraction. Wallflowers, there will almost always be people at networking events, who are hugging a wall, checking their phone, drinking a drink on their own. They’re also struggling to strike up a conversation. They’re perfect for you to go and start talking to. They’re probably not the best connected people at the event but they are looking for something and will be incredibly grateful that you have opened up the conversation.
So if you’re struggling and you want someone you know will be engaged, go looking for the wallflowers and get very good at the art of extraction. When you’re in conversation with somebody at these events, don’t get stuck talking one-on-one to that one person for the entire evening, unless it is an incredibly productive conversation. You’ve just wasted the purpose of going to a group event.
A couple of simple little tricks the art of extraction is never standing side on with somebody in conversation, but always standing at an angle creating this open space for other people to come and to go. As other people come into the conversation, use that as an opportunity to extract yourself and get good at some of those reasons. I’m going to go and grab another drink. I’m going to go to the bathroom. I’m going to go mingle is a very, very straightforward way of saying let’s end this conversation, I’m going to go around because you’re there at a networking event.
Don’t feel bad about wrapping up this conversation to mingle, you’re there to mingle. Get good at that. Be early/stay late, is a nice way to get to know some of the people. A lot of the conversations and values at networking events don’t happen in the middle when the room is packed. They happen at the start when there’s only a few people to talk to, they happen at the end. The stragglers who are hanging around and so make your plans to either get to an event early or stay late to maximize those conversations.
And then the last tip that I would give you is to make sure you thank the host, at the beginning and at the end if at all possible, because if there’s one person at this event who is ridiculously well-connected, it’s the person who organized it.
Getting in their good graces and making sure they know why you’re here will help maximize the benefits that you get from the event. There’s a saying that your network determines your net worth. I am a true believer, even as an introvert that the more connected you are the better your commercial outcomes in business will be.
And so if you find that this is a beneficial way and maybe you love networking events. You’re just looking for some focus on how to get the most out of them, develop your RAP sheet.
Rap R-A-P, your reputation, making sure that people know you, the way you want to be known. They understand you, your business, what makes you special.
Authenticity, be yourself. There’s no point building a relationship by pretending to be somebody else because that relationship is always going to feel like hard work.
And then P presence. Make sure you’re actually doing enough at these events, and to follow up these events to continue to be a presence in the lives of your network. They won’t forget you.
Whether networking events are a great strategy for you or just something that you want to try, I hope you can understand why they can be advantageous, why they may not be the right thing for you.
If you’re going to go along, understand that there are some tips that you can use to get the most out of them, and ongoing develop that RAP sheet to improve your business.
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