How can we get the most out of networking events?
Let’s face it, going to industry events and being asked to ‘network’ can sometimes be a bit of a drag. And some of us specifically avoid ‘networking’ activities.
On various occasions, I’m sure many of us will have felt one of the following: uncomfortable, not wanted, not listened to, in the wrong place or that our time is being wasted.
But, if you approach events and ‘networking’ with a plan, you should – from my experience – be able to learn and benefit more from events than you might think.
What does it take?
I was at a meeting of Space Cakes in Harwell recently, which I can recommend as a good networking group for the Space technology sector. The hosts are very welcoming to newcomers, the presentations are interesting and well-delivered, and it attracts well-connected people.
In discussion with one company after their presentation, I asked them a few questions about their business:
· Can you explain again, what do you do?
· How does your product/service benefit others?
· What sort of people are you looking to meet – investors, collaborators or clients?
· How can I help you?
To cut a long story short, , when I asked them about their target market, one of the things they mentioned was that they said they’d love to have an introduction to the defence and aerospace giant, Airbus.
Now, that wasn’t a connection I had up my sleeve, but …
10 minutes later…
Talking to another company, it came out that Airbus was one of their clients.
I made sure that they spoke to each other.
Now clearly, networking isn’t always that straightforward or so immediately beneficial. But the story does highlight a few important principles about how to get the most from business events and networking if you’re looking to grow your business:Put yourself in places where useful people (investors, collaborators, specialist advisors, potential clients)are likely to be. Staying in the lab/office/factory won’t do.
- Be able to explain clearly and succinctly what you do – Read my blog on this.
- Don’t limit yourself to immediate gains. Pushing your pitch, and listening out for new ideas and technical information.good networking is more often the start of a process of building relationships. Only once people have moved through the stages of knowing about you, then deciding they like and then could possibly trust you, are they likely to engage in a commercial conversation. In addition, their timelines will be different to yours. Continue your face-to-face meeting by connecting online platforms such as LinkedIn (another form of networking).
- Be broader minded; show an interest in other business. One key way to build trust is to offer to help, you can’t help unless you know what the other party is looking for.
- Try and open up conversations with others – using questions such as I did, above. Connections and collaboration will flourish.
If you avoid networking or think it is a waste of time, you are missing opportunities. . But if you get beyond the pleasantries, and have an open mindset to what you might learn, you are likely to build worthwhile connections… and more.
For tailored help in how to structure your own events/networking opportunities, email or call me (01235 606077) for a conversation, ideas and detailed advice.