Is That Networking Event Worth Your Time?
Networking events are a substantial part of the marketing universe these days. With the continually rising popularity of online groups and social platforms (like Linked In, for example), just about every business leader is likely to see business networking invitations pouring into their inbox at an alarming rate.
So are these events worth your time? Should they be a part of your marketing mix? What are you getting out of them? Do they increase your revenue in any appreciable way?
Here are three big ways to help you determine whether you should put the next networking event on your To Do list, and ways to help you make the events you do attend pay off.
1. Will this networking event help you meet any of your business goals?
Examine your business goals, any marketing strategy you already have in place, and be ruthless. Will this particular event have an impact on any of the key performance indicators you use to measure the effectiveness of your marketing program?
It may very well be that among your business goals you have items such as
- Increasing your visibility
- Finding strategic business partners
- Honing your marketing message
- Recruiting contractors or staff
- Keeping on top of current industry trends
- Learning new industry-specific skills
- Gaining new referrals
If you find a match between a particular goal and a specific networking event, you may want to put it on your short list.
2. How much time have you allotted to important (short-listed) networking events?
In other words, are these events critical, or merely a way for you to avoid other more important tasks? Sometimes a networking event is simply an easier way to spend half your day than settling some of your overdue accounts. But if there is significant good to be gained, you should be able to set yourself a time-based goal (i.e., “I will spend 6 hours each month on networking events”) and keep your decision-making focused.
3. Do you have a strategy for getting what you want out of each event?
Your goals for each event will be based on what kind of event it is (your peers? your target market?) and how closely it is aligned with your business goals. Create strategies you can actually measure. If your goal is to meet three key influencers in your industry, don’t leave until you’ve done it. Otherwise you’re wasting your time and not contributing to your bottom line.
Networking Events that Don’t Suck
You probably already know most of the items listed below, but just for the sake of review, here they are in short form again.
- Meet the (unspoken) dress code.
- Don’t default to non-goal-related “chatting about the game over beers with someone you already know”.
- Have your business cards handy.
- Listen! Figure out how you can be helpful to others.
- Be generous.
- Ask excellent questions. Prepare some in advance. Make them goal-connected.
- Be prepared with your elevator pitch or a short success story. Stories are better. Know what your call to action is, and make it when appropriate.
- Ask for what you want. Be specific.
- Look for the “meeting outside of the meeting.” Sometimes these happen in the hallways near the event, or in the parking lot after the event, or at an after-party. Look for it, and if it will meet your goals, be there.
- Get in. Get out. Keep to your time goals.
- Follow up. Don’t let all your good work go to waste. Jot notes if you need to, then handle it as soon as possible after the event.
- Keep your promises. Did you offer to connect someone to another service provider? Did you agree to send out a sample to someone? Do it.
If you make your networking event match your business goals, keep your time investment under control, and follow your networking event strategy, there’s every chance that your event will not waste your time. In fact, if you’ve set up measurable goals, you will be able to determine precisely how successful the event was, and whether or not you should attend again in the future.