Why do we attend networking events?
To make contacts and create opportunities to do business, normally, and sometimes to just get out ourselves out there and away from the office.
Typically, we go to the event, chat to people, exchange business cards and (maybe) get in touch with them after the event.
The thing is, if, after the event, you’re thinking about how to contact them to keep on building the business relationship, this potential lead may have already gone cold.
You don’t want to waste time afterwards scouring the internet to find them and for ways to contact them.
You need to organise this beforehand so you can make the most of the event itself and strike while the iron is hot once it’s over.
Let me show you how.
Start by researching who you’d like to meet
Before you go to the event, do some research on the speakers and on anyone else you know will be attending the event and would like to meet.
Google them, search for them on LinkedIn and see if they have a Facebook page or Instagram business account.
The more you know about them before you meet them, the easier it will be to build a connection.
Just don’t be creepy.
Reach out early
There’s no reason to wait until a conference or event to start connecting with people.
LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for networking, so reach out in advance and connect with people on the platform.
The whole point of LinkedIn is to connect with others for professional purposes, so it’s fine to drop them a message letting them know it’s nice to connect.
Mention you’ll be attending the event and that you look forward to seeing them there.
If you can’t find them on social media, write a post and include the event’s hashtag in your post.
The event might have its own group on Facebook. Introduce yourself to others who will be attending and build connections with people you’d like to meet.
Get ready to talk (more) about your work
The one thing you should never do when you go to an event is harp on and on, uninvited, about your business. You don’t want to be that guy.
That doesn’t mean you mustn’t talk about it, though.
What you’ve got to do is prepare a few interesting facts to tell people about your business.
These should relate to the people with whom you’d like to do business and illustrate how you can help them.
They may ask you to tell them more, in which case it’s okay to keep on talking about your business, but if not, leave it there for the time being. They might want to think about what you’ve said and speak to you later.
Note, too, that it’s a two-way street, so you should also show an interest in them.
Have a contact information collection strategy
Now, the whole point of the approach in this post is that you collect people’s contact details beforehand so that you don’t have to worry about how you’ll get in touch with them afterwards.
You may, however, make contacts that you might not have foreseen, so it pays to have a system for collecting details once you arrive.
Information can become very jumbled. Some people use business cards, some people scribble their details down on bits of paper, some people will connect with you on LinkedIn there and then.
Devise a system. You could, for instance, keep business cards in an envelope and note down on your phone or on a notepad anything that’s not on the business card.
Follow up within the first 24 hours
When you’re done and dusted, it’s time to head back to your accommodation, jump in a taxi (or an Uber cab) to the station or turn the keys in the ignition and drive home.
Don’t just forget about your new contact, however. Message them within the first 24 hours of the event, acknowledging how nice it was to meet them in person and chat.
Mention something you talked about with them at the event and suggest another meeting.
Preparation is the key to getting the most out of a networking event.
Decide who you’d like to meet there and learn as much as you can about them, including how you can reach them after the event, before you attend.
This helps you to build a stronger relationship from the start and could put you on a faster track to doing business.
If you wait until after the event to consider how you’ll contact them, the opportunity may already be lost.
Take the time to do a little research and make a few simple preparations.
It’s time well spent.