I attended a ‘speed networking’ event yesterday hosted by Dynamic Business and Regus in Sydney. I’ve attended my share of networking events over the years but this is the first ‘speed networking’ event I’d ever attended, and it was a lot of fun. It’s managed in a structured format, so that you get an equal amount of time with everyone. Sixty seconds to be precise. You start in pairs, and you each have thirty seconds to tell the other person what you do, before one of you moves on to the next person. After an hour and half, you’ve met 50+ people, and hopefully made some connections you can pursue further.
Thirty seconds is not a lot of time to ‘pitch’ yourself, so it’s a great test of how good your elevator statement is. It’s also a timely reminder that you need to practice your networking, just like anything else you want to do well. Here are my tips for improving your networking…
1. Be Genuine
Obviously you attend networking events to meet people, and hopefully generate new opportunities for your business. While that’s the case, first and foremost you should be focused on what the other person does, and ask questions like “Who is your Ideal Customer” so you get a clear understanding of what they do.
If you’re not interested in what they do, you can’t expect them to be interested in what you do. And even though they may not be the right fit for your business, you may be able to connect them with someone else who is.
2. Be Present
This is a little left-of-centre in the marketing textbook. When the other person is speaking, be 100% present and attentive to what they’re saying. Unfortunately most people are a little anxious, and while the other person is speaking, they’re busy thinking about what they’re going to say. By being totally present, you’ll have a more engaging conversation.
3. Be Clear
Usually called your Elevator Pitch, although I prefer to call it my Talking Logo, it’s a short statement designed to communicate what you do. Most people simply state their job function (ie. Accountant, Lawyer, Consultant, etc), which is followed by some service features (ie. tax, superannuation, etc).
Your Talking Logo should identify your target market, and communicate what you do in a benefit-driven way. It should also be a little intriguing, to invite the other person in, and ask for more information. A great example is David Solomon from Quiddity Business (http://quidditybusiness.com.au/) who I met at the event. David was very clear with his pitch – “I help female entrepreneurs to have a better work life balance”. My response “Wow, how do you do that?”
4. Be Diligent
Make sure you have a system in place to follow up people you meet. It’s a waste of time, money and energy attending networking events if you don’t follow up. Alycia Edgar from Numbers are Life (http://numbersarelife.com/) has a great system called ‘Follow Up Friday’, where she takes time to contact prospects, clients, partners and suppliers. Alycia uses an effective contact management database, and a virtual assistant to give her the structure and time to follow everyone up, and the results have been amazing. Not only for Alycia but also her clients who have implemented similar systems – those contacted even thank the person for getting in touch, given it’s such a rarity.
So they’re my tips for improving your networking. Did I miss anything? Do you do anything different to make your networking more effective?