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How to Network at Large Events – Part 1
Well let’s start with what a large event might be: it could be a chamber lunch, a networking breakfast, a conference luncheon, an evening soiree or awards banquet – the list could go on, but I think you get the drift.
Most entrepreneurs and professionals, at some stage or another, will have to attend a large gathering or function in the course of doing business. However, despite the necessity, it often fills them with dread and many attend as reluctant participants and networkers.
With that in mind, this blog will focus on how to network at large events. This is part 1, so watch out for how to network at large events – part 2!
Here are my first 8 steps to find success when you network at large events.
1.Set Your Objective
Everything rises and falls with setting your objective. Without an objective, there is no focus. Without focus, you will remain in your own head and be ruled by fear and doubt.
Without an objective, you can’t determine whether the attendance was a success or not, because you’ve no KPIs (key performance indicators) or metrics against which to judge the event.
You’re likely to come away disenfranchised and wondering ‘why am I here? or ‘what a waste of time’.
So now you’re thinking, ok give me some examples of objectives to get my cogs turning and creative juices flowing. Well of course I shall oblige!
Here are five examples for you to consider and add to:
a) Keep connected with the local business community
b) Stay abreast of business trends, e.g. effect of budget updates, changes in legislation etc
c) Find new resources that can be introduced to others in your wider network, thereby making you a better connector and more valuable
d) Keep your business top of mind
e) Find new prospects for your business
There’s actually a sixth opportunity and you can read more about it here on 12 ways that networking can help with your marketing.
2. Do Your Research
Find out what’s involved if you’ve never been to one of these events before. If you’re a guest, find out the running order and any particular expectations there may be, e.g. everyone must do a 30 second intro.
Try to find out how many people are expected to attend, so you can gauge how many cards or fliers to bring along, as appropriate.
Aim to get a list of who is attending. This may or may not be available, but you can also look at the members of the Chamber or association on their website, so you have a feel for the type of company/people that will be in attendance.
Talk to the host/organiser – they’ll know most people so if you need help getting introductions, ask them who you should meet.
When armed with the attendance list, it makes it easier to decide who you’d like tp meet and if you follow point 3 below, you can ask the host to make some appropriate introductions.
3. Arrive on Time
And by this I don’t mean at the start time. I mean 15 minutes early. If seats are pre set, it’ll allow you time to find your seat. If seats are not pre set, then you can pick a seat and set yourself up. One less thing to worry about.
Keep mingling and chatting until you’re absolutely forced to sit down. Don’t be the person who skulks off to sit down and look at their phone – if you do this, well then you just bought yourself an expensive ticket!
By arriving early, you’ve got the opportunity to introduce yourself to the host and enquire about those introductions that I mention in point 2.
Points 2 & 3 help you avoid the fluster. Being flustered means that the attention is on yourself, in your head, so this is to be avoided!
4. Do Not Sell
Events like these are not for pitching and selling at.
Yes, you want to meet prospects, but you are looking to identify people with whom you can connect with after the event and continue a conversation and nurture a relationship.
Do not sell at these events! That’s a big no no.
5. Put a Number on It
A huge part of the reluctance and struggle with many of these events, is the misperception that one must attend and distribute lots of business cards and in turn collect lots of business cards.
We’ve all done it. Let’s be honest. I know I have.
But it’s the wrong approach for a number of reasons. No one will remember you and you won’t remember them.
Instead, set yourself a target to meet 2 or 3 people. That’s manageable. That’s achievable. It’ll be more enjoyable and the follow up will not be so onerous.
6. Put Your Curious Hat On
As kids, we were often told my our parents that it was dangerous to talk to strangers and yet, when in this environment, that is exactly what we are doing. The way I look at it, it’s all about mindset.
Prime yourself and get your head into the right frame of mind. Enter the room smiling. Visualise a positive and enjoyable event. Visualise having great conversations, being relaxed and meeting lovely people.
Get curious about those with whom you converse. It can be great fun getting to know people and you never know who you are talking to or who they know that might be of help to you down the line!
7. Act Like a Host
This is one I often say to new networkers and introverted networkers…get a task or job to do. You can offer to help the host with set up if you’ve arrived early enough. And by acting like a host, you’re concentrating on others rather than on your own insecurities and doubts.
Watch out for people who are uncomfortable and offer to introduce them to others. Smile and be confident. It will help make you more approachable.
8. What Do You Want People to Know
Whether a business owner or an employee, people who are meeting you will want to know who you are, what you do and why you are at the event. So think about this in advance.
I suggest having a 10 second and a 30 second version of what you want to say, prepared in advance. It will save time, show you as professional and respectful of others.
Very often in the mingling phase, you will only have a very short time to introduce yourself if standing in a group, so it’s not appropriate to hog the limelight. Be brief.
Many chamber events allow an opportunity to do a round robin at the table, so this is where the 30 second intro comes into play. Each person sitting at the table has the chance to introduce themselves and their business.
Don’t steal other people’s time by going on for a minute or two – it’s disrespectful to those at your table, it says you are not prepared, and it puts the MC, whose job it is to curate the time, in a difficult position.
Click here to read How to Network at Large Events – Part 2.
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