3 tips to getting the most of your networking experiences

When people ask my husband what I do, he says, “My wife?  My wife is a professional meeting goer.”  Now he knows, and those who know me know that is definitely not true!  It makes me laugh, though,  because I guess it ’s true to a point. In this day and age, I believe the best way to meet my potential clients and to meet my potential “tribe” and others I would like to hire, is to get out there and meet people face-to-face.  As well, entrepreneurism can be a very lonely business.  Getting out to meet people and attend networking and other events is a way to stay connected and to know that I’m not alone.

But attending luncheons, after hours, and meetings is not always all it’s cracked up to be. How many of us have gone into a networking event, spent an hour or two, and then left feeling either like, “well I’ll never get that time back,”  or “that the group was in no way my people?”  I’m sure that all of us at one point or another have had that experience.

So how do we decide what networking events or meetings to go to and how do we get the most out of the ones we choose?  There are a lot of philosophies out there, and from my own experience and a lot of reading, I’ve come up with a few pointers on this.

  • Go in with a GIVING mindset.  When we ask people about themselves and find out what they need in their business, we come NOT from a place selling and what can I get, but rather one of truly getting to know someone better.  Sandra Yancey, CEO and founder of eWomenNetwork, says to go in and ask them what their biggest business challenge is that they are facing.  It helps you know whom you might connect them with or if they might even be your potential client.  It also makes the person you’re talking to feel heard and cared about.
  • Before attending a meeting, find out who is in charge and give them a call.  Let them know what kind of people you are wanting to meet and ask if anyone fitting that niche or description attends their events.  If yes, see if you can get names so that when you arrive, you can ask for introductions and get to know them.
  • Do NOT collect more than 5 cards at an event, and take only those who you feel you can serve or who you want to truly start building a relationship with.  The reason?  We can’t realistically follow up with more than a handful of people after an event.  As well, you can recall information about them and use that in your follow-up conversations.  If we gather a stack of cards from everyone at an event, we end up with piles and piles of business cards, can’t recall why we took the card in the first place, and maybe don’t even know where we met them.  I actually had someone call me one time who said he’d like to meet with me, but he couldn’t even recall where he met me.  AND, he couldn’t tell me what made him want to meet with me.  Are you kidding???  We are BUSY people!  Make follow-up doable and worth everyone’s time!
  • If you aren’t networking, I think it’s one of the most important things you can do to build new relationships and ultimately new business, not to mention fostering relationships you may already have.  Consider Professional Meeting Goer a new title for yourself!  Just be sure to get picky about where you are going, decide why you’re going, who you’d like to meet, and have a definitive follow-up strategy!  Now get out there and make some better-than-small talk.

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