July 20, 2021
6 minutes to read
Opinions expressed by Contractor the contributors are theirs.
In-person networking events are making a comeback as more and more people feel comfortable meeting indoors with larger groups of strangers. For some, networking is easy and fun, but for others, it’s an uncomfortable chore. As someone who has used networking to grow my successful PR consulting firm, here is an overview of networking and how you can make the most of these events.
When identifying the types of networking events you want to attend, the first place to start is to understand the type of people you are trying to meet. If you’re a home insurance professional, you can find potential leads at any event, but if you’re only focusing on healthcare professionals, you’ll want to be more selective about what events you attend.
Once you know the type of people you are trying to connect with, you need to identify the types of events that will allow you to meet these people. One way to do this is to consult with your local industry associations. Sometimes members can attend these types of events for free or at a reduced price, but many groups have rates for non-members or even offer free participation the first time around so you can try it out and see how you feel. love it. Local Chamber of Commerce websites are another great source for finding events. Some cities also have citywide networking event calendar websites, which provide details of multiple events happening each month.
Then you need to decide which type of event you will enjoy the most. Do you like a formal planner or do you prefer to walk around a room on your own starting conversations with strangers?
Once you have answered these questions, you will be able to select the best type of networking events that will meet your personal preferences and business goals. Here are some of the most common types of networking events.
Related: 5 Tips for Stress-Free Networking
If you like a formal structure, a great organization to consider is LeTip International, the world’s largest privately-owned business leaders’ organization. They have over 250 chapters in the United States and Canada and are credited with hundreds of thousands of trade references per year. Basically this is a weekly meeting where a 20-40 person chapter follows a structured meeting format, which has been proven to generate leads as other group members essentially become your sales team or your source. reference.
Lunches also tend to strain more structure. While you’re always meeting new people, the networking part tends to be more compressed, leaving you less time to talk to people before you sit at a table and eat while listening to a presentation often. If you are seated with the right people on either side, you may be able to make a great and relevant contact to grow your network. If you sit next to people you don’t care about, it’s basically wasted time. After the presentation or lunch is over, people tend to leave very quickly, with little networking, as people need to get back to work. It is therefore important to arrive early to meet new people at these types of events.
If you prefer more time for schmooze, breakfast events or happy hours might be better suited to your style. Breakfast events tend to have people roam the room with small breakfast plates or sit down briefly to eat and then return to networking. Some morning events also have a formal component to the event. For example, sometimes everyone goes around the room giving their 30-second pitch before resuming the mix and mix part of the event. While every group is different, it seems like there are more vendors attending breakfast events, rather than actual business owners.
Related: How Networking Can Increase Your Business Net Worth
Happy Hours tend to have almost no structure. While some may ask the host to speak to the group for a few minutes to greet everyone or thank the sponsors, more often than not it is a full shuffle and shuffle event. Many people take with them an adult drink and sometimes a small plate of appetizers. Who attends these types of events will depend on the host organization hosting the event, but attendees will tend to be more decision makers or small business owners.
Another networking opportunity would be larger events like an awards ceremony or training presentation where your business purchases a full table. In this scenario, the networking typically occurs before the presentation or before people are seated. Before you sit down with people you already know, practice the play. Look at the badges (if people are wearing them) and approach the people you want to meet.
Which events suit you?
In the end, it’s pretty straightforward. Choose the type of networking event you will enjoy and come back to events where you liked people as people – not like sales leads. I built my own successful business this way, attending an average of two 5-7s a week for several years. Repetition and being seen as a trusted regular led to several referrals that made my business what it is today.
My only caveat is that networking is about the long game, not short selling. The strategy took at least a year, during which I went to the same events month after month, talking to the same people over and over again, before I started getting referrals from clients. Successful networking is a strategy that takes time, but has the potential to pay dividends when done right.
Related: 11 Tips For Networking When You’re Running Out Of Time