You could attend small business networking events every day of the week, but what’s the use if you’re not coming home with lasting connections?
So how many can relate to this: you’re sitting at the bar of the hot, new nightclub in your city and BAM! Your soul mate appears right before your eyes. What do you do?
Let’s flip it and turn the hot nightclub into one of your city’s biggest small business networking events. Instead of the bar, you’re sitting at a table and just overheard a discussion that could certainly use your expertise (the prospect is your business soul mate – stick with me, folks).
Now what do you do?
- Run to the bathroom to check your breath? No.
- Sit and listen quietly until the conversation is over? No again.
- Interrupt the conversation to pass out your business card? Triple no.
If you do any of these, you’re dead in the water because you’ve let another great opportunity pass you by. Now whether you’re sitting at the bar and see a hot guy or girl, or at the table of a networking event, making contact is critical for your personal and business success. And we’re not talking pleasantries and small talk; we’re suggesting you make a memorable connection.
Now this doesn’t mean trip over the prospect’s foot or spill your red punch on his white shirt. Here are 5 ways to work, and not be worked, at your next small business networking event.
1. Have a plan.
What do you plan to get out of attending the event? Do some research beforehand to find out more about guests, speakers, etc. and be ready.
Use what you’ve learned to spark engaging, non-creepy (see point #4) conversations. “That was a great presentation, Mr. Speaker. I read in your recent book that you believe pigs can fly and loved it. I quoted some of your material in one of my recent blogs and it was a hot topic. I’d love to send it to you for your reaction.”
2. Share your knowledge.
This requires you to listen to the conversation and say something like, “I couldn’t help but overhear you’re looking for some help with your marketing strategy, I always tell my clients to keep it diverse and simple. I have some complimentary information I can share that I think will help you get started.”
See how you’re sharing your wisdom without sounding like Little Miss Know-It-All and you’re engaging in the conversation politely versus rudely butting in?
3. Know your purpose.
People often like to know other people’s agendas and why they chose to attend certain networking events. You call it being nosey, I say it’s inquisitive. Whatever you want to call it, make sure you can articulate why you’re at the event.
Although free food and drinks is not the best answer, be honest and genuine. My cousin is a guest speaker. I’ve always been interested in this topic. I’m writing a guest blog post. Whatever the reason, share it. No one’s asking you? Well break the ice by asking another guest.
4. Don’t be creepy.
Creepy is following someone around the room to put your business card (as fabulous as they may be) in her hand. Or walking up to someone you looked up on LinkedIn and start rattling off their previous jobs and awards. Networking is all about being natural – naturally engaging and naturally fabulous.
5. Know that everyone is not your target.
As small business owners, we often try to sell our products and services to everybody. Reality check: everybody does not want what you’re selling. And besides, that takes a lot of effort … that you could be spending on folks who may actually buy something from you.
Choose small business networking events that make good use of your time. Hair stylist attending a professional women’s event – makes sense.
What’s the Word: Attending small business networking events isn’t about the number of business cards you get or pass out. Say something engaging and you’ll end the evening with a new connection versus just another business card.