Tanya Kuhrt, Virtual PA

By Tanya Kuhrt

So you’ve got yourself booked on your first networking event to promote your new business. But what should you expect? Here’s a quick start guide to give you the basics. Good luck!

  1. Research beforehand. Look at the group’s website – often there will be a list of members and what they do. You should have a think about what would be the best businesses for you to connect with and then when you go to the meeting you can zone in on those people first. A good way of thinking about this is to work out the kind of businesses who would be good referral partners for you. For example a great referral partner for me is an accountant because I do bookkeeping. An accountant could potentially introduce me to people who are in need of bookkeeping.
  2. Schedule the time in to your calendar with at least an extra half hour so that you don’t have to rush off the minute the event ends.
  3. Dress smartly. Self-explanatory!
  4. Ask for a receipt. You can claim this as a business expense but often at networking groups they’ll only give a receipt if you request it.
  5. Arrive Early. Try and arrive 10-15 minutes early. Most events have an “open” networking session followed by a more formal sit-down session. Often there will be more open networking at the end of the meeting but if you arrive a few minutes early it allows you to get your bearings and meet more people face-to face.
  6. Don’t sell during open networking when chatting to individual people. Networking is a long game and it’s about building relationships and trust. Be interested in them and their business and they’ll be interested in yours. It’s really important not to talk just about yourself.
  7. Don’t forget your cards! You should never go to a networking event without business cards to hand out. Take plenty. Try to find out in advance how many people there are likely to be. This could vary hugely – some groups could have as few as 10 members or as many as 60. If you are starting your business on a shoestring check out Vistaprint where you can order about 100 cards for about a tenner including delivery. You can worry about branding and fancy cards later just get some cards ordered so you have something to hand out!
  8. Have a 60 second intro to your business prepared in advance. Most networking events there will be a chance for everyone to stand up and tell the others about their business. Usually the time allowed will be 60 seconds but check beforehand with whoever invited you. Write down what you are going to say and practice in advance to make sure you don’t go over the limit. Many groups are quite strict and use a timer!group of business people at business networking meeting
  9. Use your 60 seconds wisely. The best format is to first say your name and business name and the type of business.  Then very briefly the kind of services you provide – do not list every single thing you do! Then tell them the kind of clients you are looking for. The more specific you are on this the better. DO NOT say that you are looking for “anybody” or “anyone” or “any small business”.  If you are stuck with this think about who your ideal client would be. Where do they live? What kind of business are they? Why would they need your services? And then use that to base your 60 seconds on. The final part of your 60 seconds should be a repeat of your name and business name. You could try also adding a “tag line” if you want – it’s a great way of helping people to remember what you do.
  10. NEVER use jargon in your 60 seconds. You may know what it means and think everyone else does but many won’t have a clue.
  11. Don’t sell to the room. Networking is about tapping in to who the people in the room could introduce you to. It’s not about getting them to buy your product (although that does of course happen sometimes)!
  12. Make sure you take a pen and take notes about everyone else’s 60 seconds. There may be something that resonates with you when you read it later, or you may even potentially have a referral for someone.
  13. Collect as many business cards as you can and note down on the cards the event and date. Later when you get home you can pick out the ones that you think would be good people to stay in contact with. Add them to your contacts. A great app you can use for this is Cardcam which scans business cards and automatically puts the data into your smartphone contact list. Connect with them on Linkedin, follow them on Twitter and like their business Facebook page. Send them an email saying how much you enjoyed meeting them, perhaps suggest meeting for a coffee to find out more about each others’ businesses. DON’T send a sales email trying to get them to buy something unless they have specifically said that they are interested in using your product or services (in which case you should ring them rather than emailing).
  14. Don’t apply to join on the day. You need to think about it. Maybe try some other groups. But it is worth noting that joining a group is really the only way to get the most out of networking. That way you have time to build relationships and trust.

Visit a second time before making a decision. But bear in mind you may not be allowed to visit a third time unless you apply to join.Hand with marker writing Good Luck

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