You’ve probably been to a networking event before, you may even have been to a bunch, but have you ever actually sat down and figured out exactly how to get maximum benefit from the events you are attending? I struggle with this too so I’ve contacted 10 top Adelaide networkers and asked them to share their best tips. I’m really happy with the results. Its fascinating to read about the different approaches people have and see where they agree and where they have totally different ideas. If you have any networking tips of your own that weren’t covered in the article, include them in the comments below. Enjoy.
Simone Douglas from Social Media AOK
My Top 5 tips.
- Work out who sees your clients before and directly after you in business
- Tap into their networks through social media
- Take online offline and meet for coffee then be quiet, ask them how you can help them, who do they need to be introduced to etc
- Build on the relationship over time – invite them to the next event you are attending
- Don’t have an end point or agenda in mind. Networking is all about the relationship something that too many people in business have forgotten
Robert Godden from The Devotea
Whatever eccentricities you have, don’t hide them. Be memorable. People remember unusual.
Chris Hooper from Cirillo Hooper & Company
My tip is: Always follow up.
Networking is pointless if it doesn’t translate to real relationships. You can’t achieve this unless you routinely follow up the people you meet.
Tony McCreath from Website Advantage
Don’t go to events to get business.
- Go to events to meet like-minded people.
- Go to chat about something you’re interested in.
- Go to learn.
When there, don’t be afraid to approach a stranger. They are there because they want to meet people as well.
I’m guilty of chatting to people I know and missing out on meeting new ones. So keep mingling.
Follow existing conversations then join in and contribute.
My biggest sin is that I meet so many people that I can’t remember who’s who. I’m sure we all have the same problem to a degree. So don’t worry if you forget or are forgotten. Give out hints like where you last met and don’t be afraid to ask.
And remember it’s all for fun. Enjoy it, have a beer, eat some pizza.
Maybe you might even get some business after all.
Josh Pugh from Adelaide Word of Mouth
The most important thing about networking (in Adelaide especially) is meeting people and not businesses. If someone in the street, or at a networking event, walks up to you and immediately presents you with a business card along with an “elevator speech” about what they do, your impression of them is not friendly or personable; it’s business. While that might sound fantastic when promoting what you do, it’s not how people identify with others and it’s certainly not going to be memorable enough for them to call you at a later date. What you want to do is meet the person, and talk to them like the living breathing human being that they are, and work your way through to the topic of work, business and how you might be able to help them (this might not even be the first time you meet them or in some cases ever). Be a person and don’t be a robot. Don’t try and hand out a certain quota of cards and shake a particular number of hands, because all you’re doing is becoming part of the pile and a boring one at that. Nobody is ever going to call you simply because of what you do, instead they’ll get in touch if they like the person that you’ve presented yourself as.
Alison Barrett from in-business Magazine
Be genuine. Don’t try and put on a mask. Many corporates are guilty of this. Be authentic, be genuine and be yourself. You are there for a reason, and you have your own unique story, life experiences and career pathway to draw from. Remember that business is about people. It’s not about systems, or finances, or strategy. At the end of the day you are dealing with people. It is people who are the backbone of a business, therefore you need to build relationships.
Challenge yourself by attending networking events by yourself, where you don’t know anybody. It will feel uncomfortable at first, but it forces you to meet new people. It gets you out of your comfort zone and you will develop a better confidence at networking.
People often get nervous in networking situations. Knowing that everyone is feeling the exact same way as you can be reassuring and an instant de-stressor. Don’t underestimate the power of physiology. Before you enter a room, take 5 deep breaths, in through your nose, hold for 4-5 seconds and slowly breathe out through your mouth. If you can work on feeling a sense of calm, you will project that when you enter a room.
Try and eliminate the ‘spotlight effect’ within yourself. In psychology, this is the idea that you think everybody is watching you, everyone is judging you, and everyone is thinking about you and therefore scrutinizing every move you make. In reality, everyone’s so consumed in their selves, and what is concerning them, that they are not taking any notice of you. No, they didn’t see you drop that hors d’ oeuvre on the ground, and no they are not judging you when you accidentally stumble on your way in.
BUSINESS CARD ETIQUETTE: If you are to give someone your business card, do it at the end of a conversation, not at the start (unless they initiate giving it to you at the start of a conversation). Make sure you are prepared and not rustling around, fishing into a bottomless bag pulling out lip glosses and papers to find one crumpled at the bottom (I need to work on this). Say something along the lines to them- “It’s been lovely to meet you, if you ever need any help anytime, feel free to give me a call or email.” It’s a little more genuine than “here’s my business card”.
Despite everything that has been said above, the harsh reality is, people DO judge on presentation when meeting somebody for the first time. Within 3 seconds, on an entirely unconscious level, we have already made a judgement about a person, based on years of evolutionary conditioning. We instinctively label someone “friend” or “foe”, based on a myriad of tiny unconscious cues. Something as simple as having clean or dirty hair or a shirt ironed or crumpled can rattle off an extensive list of assumptions in a person’s brain, without them even realising it! Ask yourself, ‘how do people perceive me when they meet me?’ ‘What perception do I want to convey, and what type of identity do I want people to recognise within me?’ What are your tiny cues saying?
Have fun. Enjoy it. Go in with a positive attitude and recognise that regardless of who you are talking to, there is something you can learn from them. Whether it be learning something revolutionary about yourself, your profession, or a random, useless fact you can whip out at a dinner party one day.
Martin Russell from Word of Mouth Magic
Want More People Responding To Your Networking Online?
If you’ve ever networked online you know that until you have a strong connection with someone, your emails may just not get replies.
What can you do? Do you just need to call everyone, or meet them, or even just put outrageous Subject Lines in your emails to get attention?
Not at all.
Here’s how can stay professional, stay online AND you get your message responded 4x as often.
Send your email via the message option in LinkedIn.
In a recent test the same email sent via LinkedIn got 4x the response (79% replied) compared to a standard email from Outlook (19% replied).
Want the actual business email that got the 79% response? Connect with me on Linkedin, and I’ll send you the full details for you to use in your own business.
Geoff Kwitko from Startup Club Adelaide
Top 5 tips:
- Use http://www.moo.com to create 100 completely different business cards each with a different photo. It’s a great ice breaker to ask the people you meet to select their favourite photo from your collection of different cards. Have fun and try to guess something about their personality based on what photo they choose! The small thin size of MOO cards is also a great point of differentiation. In my experience, the whole room will come to YOU and want a to pick their own card!
- Crowdsource your hunt for interesting people. Ask the people you meet for advice on who else to meet! For example say “Have you met anyone particularly interesting tonight?” or say “I’m looking to meet someone who has skills in venture raising. Have you met anyone tonight who fits that bill?” It’s a great conversation starter, and also it will help you to isolate the golden nuggets in the crowd!
- Blending in is the enemy. Be a brave, pattern breaker and trend disrupter. Stand out from the crowd and be memorable. Wear jeans and a loud shirt when everyone else are wearing suits. Learn a magic trick and practise it on people who meet (Vihn Giang is the expert at this of course!). Bring an interesting prop, like a book or a puzzle. You want to leave the room knowing everyone will remember you. The braver you are (within reason) the more people will respect your confidence and have positive interest in you.
- Instead of asking the same old boring questions (e.g. “So what do you do for a living?”), be sure to have some interesting stories or questions to share prepared that are a little controversial and engagingly unique. Some examples include “If you were prime minister for a day, what would you try to achieve?” or “If you had a million dollars you needed to donate to a charity or community project, what would it be? Why?”.
- If you find someone you feel could be valuable to meet again, be proactive and agree on a time and location THEN and THERE at the networking event. Don’t say “I’ll call you tomorrow to organise a lunch”. Seal the deal and strike while the iron is hot.
Simon Derrick-Roberts from BNI South Australia
I was invited to present at a networking function recently and asked the group the following question: “Who is here to sell?” to which every person in the room energetically raised their hand. Then I asked the question: “Who is here to buy?” and not one single hand went up. This is what we call the Networking Disconnect and it’s one of the reasons that casual contact networking isn’t an effective marketing channel for most business people.
Many successful networkers recognise this disconnect between supply and demand and have changed their networking paradigm accordingly. They aim not to sell TO the people in the room, instead they sell THROUGH them. To achieve this, first you’ll need to build strong relationships based on trust and only then can you expect your networking partners to recognise and qualify a genuine business opportunity for you from within their contact base. This is where a strong contact networking group like BNI can help business professionals develop and implement an effective referral marketing strategy.
Samantha Lang from Magnetic Alliance
Before going into my top tips for networking effectively, I think it’s important to understand what the point of going to a networking event is. Networking events are a medium for people to meet each other to establish relationships that can be mutually beneficial. It is not a medium for you to sell to everyone you meet.
I have been to many networking events and one thing I cannot stand is people who fling their business cards around, it is not a competition to see how many business cards you can leave with. So my first tip is to only exchange business cards with people you have actually spoken with. I generally spend 5-10 minutes with each person I meet so we get beyond the topic of ‘what do you do?’ and actually connect on a personal level. Be genuinely interested in what they have to say and in turn they will be interested in what you do as well, this may seem like an obvious point but you would be surprised at how many people will just politely wait for you to stop talking so they can have their turn. One question I always like to close a conversation with is ‘What kind of people would you like to meet?’ this can often give you an opportunity to introduce them to someone else at the same event that you have just met, allowing you to go and meet someone new, or it also allows you to add value after the event.
Which brings me to my second tip; the follow up. The relationships you establish at a networking event will not be of value to either of you if you forget about each other once the night is over. I always follow up with a friendly email to let the person know that I enjoyed meeting them and appreciated their time. If there wasn’t anyone at the event that could be introduced to them when you asked who they wanted to meet, this is the perfect opportunity for you to go through your contacts and think who do I know that might be of value to them. I always endeavour to add value without expecting anything in return because naturally it makes people like you and people who like you are much more willing to help you in the future. I personally like to have coffee with everyone I meet at networking events to get to know them better, I would also recommend connecting on LinkedIn immediately after the event to help you stay top of mind with the people you meet without having to meet them for coffee every month, because who really has time for that! One last way to add value, after I know what they are looking for and what they like, I invite them along to other networking events I know about that they might find beneficial too.
Bonus Tip 1: Donny Walford from Behind Closed Doors
Invest time in your career by cultivating relationships. You will never have time so you have to MAKE time, make the most of all opportunities. It’s not whether you have a network but whether you know how to network!
Unlimited opportunities – Invest Your Time Wisely – Go to the right events, Build relationships with influencers, Determine who knows your targets and ask for introductions and referrals. Ask to be included on their guest list for events and functions
Elevator Speech – You need to explain what you do, Short, concise, factual, to the point, Eliminate the hype, Be you
Have a plan for the event – Why do you want to attend? (speakers/social event), What are your goals?, Obtain the attendee list
The basics – Get there early, See the attendee list (if you haven’t already), Meet the organizers – get to know them, Be the host, Be enthusiastic
- “Effective networkers have a belief system that every single person they meet is incredibly interesting and has much to contribute to any conversation”
- You want them to talk, ask questions and listen, Don’t be distracted, be in the moment
- Always make eye contact
- If they seem likely to be a match for your goals…..ask for “permission” to follow up and exchange cards
- Write on the back of the business card where you met and main points of your discussion
Next – Say…”It was great to meet you. I need to catch up with some other people.” Or even…”It was my pleasure to meet you. We are all here to network so I am going to keep moving.” Be pleasant but keep moving
Guerilla networking – Do groups meet afterward? Leave at least 1/2 hour free to continue networking, Are there VIP briefings beforehand? If yes get on their invite list
Follow up –
- Take some notes, Have a system, Update your CRM system
- Email within one to two weeks to say it was great meeting them and you look forward to a catch up in x weeks
- Linked In – within the first week of meeting them. Linked In App – Cardmunch.
- Follow up when appropriate
- If not you have damaged your brand and wasted your time
Final thoughts –
- Consider being a regular at one or two networking groups – You will become well known, Your reputation will grow, People will likely refer others to you
- Plan events in your calendar – You can make one or two each month, If you don’t book them you simply will not go
Bonus Tip 2: Nick Morris from Adelaide Business Events
Try and attend a range of different events in different locations. Often if you attend the same event each month or the same type of events you keep running into the same people and everyone pretty much knows each other. If you can go and find some other events, perhaps in a different location or focused around a different topic, you will get the opportunity to connect with a totally different group of people. Now you have the unique opportunity to become a connector and bring people from the different communities together for their benefit which will also strengthen your own relationships and make them want to help you too.
How can you find new events to attend? Well, you’re in luck ;). Sign up below to receive the Adelaide Business Events weekly email with a summary of all of the upcoming networking and other business events so you can pick and choose those you’d like to attend.