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12 Tips to Help You Generate More Leads At Your Next Networking Event

Posted on the 06 March 2013 by Cr8inc @CR8inc
Keep these 12 tips in mind at your next networking event and I promise you will start to see a huge increase in overall networking effectiveness. 

I attend a lot of networking events as a small business owner. Most of them are local networking events put on by the chamber of commerce, local young professionals organizations or any other number of community events that I think might be good exposure for me or my company. They are a great opportunity to build rapport with other like minded business people and increase my exposure (center of influence) in the community. 

Some people spend their days cold calling and knocking on doors of random strangers trying to make sales calls and business connections. I know there is a place and a time for cold calling but proper use of networking events involves so much more than trying to perfect your sales pitch or make your next sale. When used properly you can definitely use networking events to sell your products but you can also grow your network, build credibility and make more friends. You just have to know a few simple rules and you can turn your next networking event in to a lead generating machine. 

Having a plan before hand helps

Business networking involves many things. It is all about building relationships and creating credibility in the brand of you! Making sales, growing your business and inserting yourself as a key member of the community should all be a part of your networking strategy. The value of local business networking events, per dollar, far exceeds any other small business marketing channel in existence. If you are spending money advertising and are not a member of your local chamber of commerce you are doing yourself a huge disservice. 

Think about it, when you are trying to buy something or make an important decision you often turn to your personal network right? You reach out to your network of contacts to see if there is someone who can give you advice, a referral or a better deal. Well, business networking is all about trying to create and grow that same type of network but with doing business together in mind. You want to see your sales and community exposure increase? Get active in your local chamber of commerce and make sure you attend a number of networking events a month. There is no better a platform to let people know about yourself as a business owners, sales person or individual than regularly attending local networking events. 

Practice Makes Perfect

Just showing up doesn't cut it. There are a number of people who regularly attend networking events and people still have no clue who they are or what they do. They show up with friends, talk to the same people every time and treat it like a fun night out. There is nothing wrong with that either, I used to do it myself before I truly understood the art of networking. Some people are not in sales, not business owners and only attend networking events to socialize with their friends. You will bump in to them occasionally but if you understand the rules of great networking then they wont get in the way of your lead generating efforts. 

For those who want to have fun and are doing everything they want to do at the networking events they attend I say good for you. For the Rest of us who are always looking to learn more, meet new people and build our network, here are a few simple tips you can use to get the most out of your next networking event. You won't use all of these rules all the time but having them all in your arsenal will help you maximize all of your networking opportunities. 

  1. Work the room: I know first hand how cliquey these things can get so make sure you aren't just showing up to talk to friends. You want to make sure you are moving from conversation to conversation and group to group in order to meet as many new people as possible. I'm not saying you can't stop and chat with friends, clients, and other familiar faces but you should make sure you introduce yourself to a few new people at each event. 

  2. Quit selling for a couple hours: It wont take long to start being avoided like the plague if you go to networking events with the intent of selling people every time you talk to them. Make it a point to get to know people and find out about them. Ask a lot of questions, people always love to talk about themselves. What better way to make a five minute friend then to let them tell you everything about what they do. 

  3. Set a goal: before the event you should have an idea in your mind of how many new people you want to talk to. Don't be the person walking around handing cards to everyone in the room, never taking a moment to actually meet anyone. Just do yourself a favor and make it a goal to meet 2-3 new people at each event. 

  4. Talk to a stranger: You can see them wandering around aimlessly at almost every networking event. Maybe you have even been that awkward person who is trying this networking thing out for the first time yourself. Don't be afraid to go up and talk to a random stranger, introduce yourself to someone new or pull someone in to your little circle. A friendly gesture like this goes a long way in the new persons eyes and is a signal of leadership to those around you! 

  5. Sometimes one is plenty: Just because you have a plan to meet a few new people doesn't mean that if you meet one top level prospect you have to disengage them in order to continue networking. You should continue every conversation with anyone you think might be a good contact for you to make, even if it means chatting with them the entire event. You never know when you are going to hit it off with your next new client, referral source or heck, maybe a new friend. 

  6. Keep a hit list: You should always have a number of top prospects in mind and know what they look like in case you get a chance to bump in to them at a networking event. I'm not telling you to stalk anyone, that would be weird but what better a setting to approach someone you are interested in meeting than at an event where people are supposed to meet other people. It is especially valuable if you have tried to reach out and contact them before. Maybe you have tried the old school unannounced visit at his office, a lead letter, email or a phone call but have not been able to get through. The networking is a perfect setting to help them put a face to the name and possibly lead them to answer the next time you call. 

  7. Break up a clique: Don't be afraid to approach the person you want to introduce yourself to, even if they are in a group talking to other people. I'm not telling you to walk up and interrupt, and use your judgment when you think people might be having a private or personal conversation but it would not be out of line for you to walk up, join their circle, and when appropriate introduce yourself. 

  8. Don't be afraid to excuse yourself: If you are talking to someone and you feel the conversation is going nowhere or does not give you the opportunity to interject then don't hesitate to excuse yourself and move on to the next conversation. After all, not everyone you want to meet, wants to meet you, especially if they are engaged in an intense conversation or chatting up one the people on their own hit list. There is no reason to stand around in a group of people trying to meet someone if they are intentionally ignoring you or just leaving you out of the conversation. Walk away and meet someone else but don't give up on them, you might just have to find a better time to approach them. 

  9. To drink or not to drink? Me? I like to enjoy a brew almost anywhere, especially after work at a very social networking event. There is nothing wrong with having a couple drinks at a networking event but make sure you don't cross that line. Take it from a guy who has made that mistake for you, Keep it under control. Make sure you don't make an idiot of yourself in front of all these new people you have been working so hard to meet. 

  10. Be selective: There is such a thing as a serial networker. You can easily fill your entire calendar with any number of networking groups, breakfast clubs, networking lunches and after hours events. It is ok to explore different networking opportunities but focus your attention on the ones that actually give you an opportunity to network with people who can help you increase your influence and social reach. 

  11. Know the staff: Get to know the people that organize the events. The chamber staff, the committee volunteers, board members or anyone else that helps organize the networking events. They will be invaluable to you if you decide to get more involved or ever have any questions at an event. They are always willing to help and they usually know everyone. Not to mention it doesn't hurt that you were nice to them when they are sitting around deciding which pictures make it in their monthly newsletter, magazine or Facebook page!

  12. Follow up: always make sure you follow up with anyone you meet at a networking event. There is a reason your contact information on a business card. Be sure to send a personalized email to everyone you met at the networking event. I always include a mention of anything we talked about, an invitation to meet for coffee or lunch if they want to explore our patio ship further and a link to my company website, blog and Facebook page. I do not however add them to all my email lists! I repeat, under no circumstances does meeting someone at a networking event and getting their email authorize you to add them to your email lists! There is no better way to ensure that your email marketing sucks than to immediately start spamming. 

What do you think? Have any tips I might have missed or advice about networking? Leave it in the comments. 

12 Tips to Help You Generate More Leads At Your Next Networking Event

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12 Tips to Help You Generate More Leads At Your Next Networking Event

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