Article by Sandra Garlick 20.06.16
When you start out in business it is often tempting to attend every networking event you can find. It is often referred to as “He/she would attend the opening of an envelope!” We have all done it in an attempt to make as many contacts as possible in order to fill those long days ahead with new clients and ultimately work.
However, this can have a few negative implications:
• Your marketing budget dwindles fast.
Not all networking events are free and if you have to pay a membership as well as an attendance fee, these soon mount up. It is important to have a budget for networking and to stick to it.
• It may give the impression you have no work.
If you are out every day networking, when are you actually doing all your work? So many times people introduce themselves and say what they do, followed by a statement that they are so busy…networking. Great if it’s your business but if not it tells another story.
• You increase your waistline!
If you attend breakfast, lunch and dinners regularly, you may soon start to see an increase in weight. There are only so many cooked breakfasts you can eat in a week. So ask for a healthy alternative if you find your diary full of events with meals included.
So how do you find and choose the right events to attend?
1. Ask others for recommendations about good events to attend. They may even invite you along as a guest. It is often better to attend an event where you know someone or know something about the event in advance. It can also save you time and money.
2. Take a look at Eventbrite for events that are happening in your local area. It is wise to start locally to build up your network. This keeps travelling time and costs to a minimum.
3. Ensure that you leave time in the week for actually doing your work. If you are out networking all day every day, when are you going to earn the money to pay for it? Plan your week so that you have sufficient time to deliver your work and work on your business.
4. Are breakfast, lunch or evening events best? This largely depends on your capacity and whether you have other commitments. You may not be a morning person. You may have childcare or caring responsibilities. If you are a morning person and breakfasts work for you, that leaves the rest of the day clear.
5. Where will your clients be? Many people often overlook this and just attend events that they like, which is great. However, if you are never going to reach your clients then why are you going?
6. Look for events that allow you to visit a couple of times before you pay a membership. You need to ensure that the event is right for you and your business. If your target client is not going to be there, are there people attending who could introduce you to your ideal client?
7. Try and find free events. There are many of them around and advertised on groups and pages via Social Media.
8. If you have already visited an event and didn’t enjoy it, make a note not to visit again. In fact, make a brief note after you visit every event so that you have data to refer to. It is surprising how easy it is to forget if you are doing a lot of networking.
9. Choose events that resonate with you. You are far more likely to feel comfortable and confident when you attend. There is no point attending an event where you feel uncomfortable as this will show over time. Are you paying a monthly fee for an event which you rarely attend?
10. Think about attending events where you can meet a lot of people in one go. For example, attending a Business Expo will give you the opportunity to browse, connect and network throughout the day. These events are usually free to attend.
11. Include social events in your calendar. It is surprising how many contacts you meet at parties, weddings and on the golf course.
Once you have identified which events work for you it is a good idea to stick at them for a while. Whilst you may attend a networking event and pick up a new client straight away, it is rare. It is more important to build up relationships and trust over time. Once you secure a client, make sure you record where you met them. You will then build up a data trail of which events are working for you.
Sandra Garlick is a Business Growth Consultant, Mentor, Public Speaker and Trainer. Sandra is also the Founder of the Woman Who…Awards. Sandra will be exhibiting at the Kenilworth Chamber Business Expo on Friday 24th June at the Holiday Inn Kenilworth from 9am-3.00pm. Entry is free.