The 5 Networking Event Formats & How to Maximize Each

Business-building, Job or career search, Networking 101 - The Basics, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success, networking in your association No Comments

Every networking event has its individual dynamics, benefits and drawbacks. Many, if not most, networking events include a meal. The act of “breaking bread” with another person is a powerful relationship-building vehicle. In order to maximize your investment, review the information below.

1. Networking Breakfast. Networking breakfast functions are usually high-intensity events. People who attend these are generally early risers who see this as an opportunity to start the day with a bang. There is a strong business context here and attendees are usually focused and business-oriented. These events have a forced deadline as participants know they have a full day ahead. Social conversation is usually at a minimum, even over a quick coffee to start things off. Expect conversation partners to be direct and to the point. This is a key benefit to these sessions.

Breakfast Success Strategy:  Be prepared. Have a plan. Know whom you want to meet and keep your conversation focused. This is the most effective networking venue for fostering business-to-business networking. Many small-business owners and sole entrepreneurs use early-morning networking as their main marketing strategy. They then have the rest of the day to manage their company.

2. Networking Lunch. The Networking Lunch remains the main strategy for the corporate world. This type of event still starts with casual conversation around the bar then moves to a formal meal environment. There is an emphasis on social interaction as the event unfolds. There is less pressure with respect to time as participants add a more social perspective to their luncheon conversation. Expect to see representatives from larger firms or from more established companies. They are interested in investing time to get to know one another. The conversation tends to focus as much on personal areas as business issues. There is a relaxed and informal atmosphere.

Lunch Success Strategy: Don’t aim for, or expect, immediate results. The Networking Lunch pays the greatest dividends when used as part of longer term marketing strategy that focuses on relationship-building. Joining colleagues or clients for a Networking Lunch Event with your group or organization can offer incredible opportunities to meet new contacts and develop key relationships.

3. Networking Dinner. The networking dinner meeting is essentially a social activity that may or may not include a business context. This is the end of the day. A time for reflection and discussion. There is a formal feeling to these events, which often include an entertainment component. A meal might include wine.

Dinner Success Strategy: Networking in this environment is an exercise in diplomacy. There is little emphasis on business or business development. Conversations may refer to a business issue but this is not the place to flog a product or close a deal. It is, however, the ideal environment to foster and solidify relationships. The relaxed atmosphere allows for conversations that elicit the important issues for others, as well as their areas of highest interest and need. Using the evening networking event with your closest colleagues or most important clients is a powerful marketing strategy.

4. Wine and Cheese. This event is usually the exception rather than the norm. Its stand-up format means that there is less emphasis on creating an intimate connection. Stand-up conversations tend to be shorter, contain less strategic information and are less impactful from a relationship perspective. This is a social setting that may have business overtones. Don’t expect to accomplish much from a business point of view. Most people are here to see or be seen.

Wine and Cheese Success Strategy:  Use this type of event to create contacts. Make sure you collect business cards as follow up is required to build a stronger connection with your new conversation partners. Keep your dialogue light and seek to elicit information you can use for follow up. This is one event where it’s more beneficial to try and connect more people than usual.

5. Trade Show. These events are an exercise in “speed networking”. Whether as a visitor or exhibitor, be prepared for networking at warp speed. The pace and content of conversations is quick and dirty, as attendees want to experience every part of the event and exhibitors are focused on connecting with multiple contacts. Don’t expect any deep discussions but you will connect with many more people than at a regular networking event.

Trade Show Success Strategy: In a word: preparation. Trade show success requires preparation and planning. Know which exhibitors you want to visit with or which attendees you want to touch base with. Your best option here is to continually meet, greet and move on. Have an answer to “what’s new?” for all your existing contacts and if you do make a new connection, get a business card and commit to following up.

Whichever event format you chose, make sure you maximize its impact and your results.


Michael J. Hughes is a recognized authority on utilizing networking as a business strategy. To find out more about him, or to have him present at your next meeting or conference, contact him at his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com

 

Is Face-to-Face Networking Dead?

building relationships, Building trust, Business-building, Job or career search, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success, networking in your association No Comments

Technology, the economic downturn and shifting social attitudes have all impacted networking in the last few years. Some have even surmised that face-to-face networking is declining in both impact and importance as a contributor to sales and business-building success. After scouring the internet and consulting with a number of trends experts, here’s my take on networking today and in the future.

Networking is alive and well.

The Mark Twain quote “rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated” is quite appropriate. Rather than lessening in value, networking seems to have increased in importance and impact with all the extraneous factors that have come into play. A recent survey (GrowBiz and Zoomerang) concluded that 86% of business owners said word-of-mouth is important, with 70% citing in-person networking as their primary strategy. Networking is, indeed, alive and well.

Networking and the maturing of social media.

The myth of social media replacing the need for face-to-face contact has dissipated, with social media strategies accepting the reality of incorporating and intertwining online and offline marketing options. The social network phenomenon is gravitating to its true value as a component and complement to the interpersonal relationship-building process that drives our lives and determines our success.

Networking and technology overload.

More and more professionals are committing to “disconnect to connect”; turning off technology and allowing themselves to interact with others on a more personal and intimate level. By choosing to eliminate the distractions and interruptions technology brings, they are accepting the true impact of interacting with others and accelerating the relationship process. B2B and B2C has evolved to B2P (business to people), where it’s been for hundreds of years.

Networking and the trust factor.

There is no question that we have become more cynical and cautious. With up to 80% of people now researching purchase decisions online and the multitude of options available, how do we choose? There is no more powerful differentiator than connecting with others in real-time to share your passion, competence, integrity and professionalism. Building trust is, and has always been, a face-to-face activity. The lost art of social contact is becoming the difference maker in our multiple-choice market.

Networking and business strategy.

The economy continues to impact where we commit our resources and how we deliver our products or services. Every investment must be managed and measured. Networking continues to be the single most cost-effective sales and business-building strategy in today’s complex and competitive environment, but only when it is utilized strategically, to access and leverage the right network, with the right strategy for the right outcomes.

Now, go work your network!

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Michael Hughes is known as North America’s Networking Guru. To get more info about his services or to have him speak at your next meeting or conference, visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com or email him at info@NetworkingForResults.com

Networking Power Tips: 9 Ways to Conclude a Networking Conversation

building relationships, Building trust, Business-building, follow up, Job or career search, Networking 101 - The Basics, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success, networking in your association No Comments

So you made a good first impression, identified some common interests and agreed on follow-up. Now is the time to conclude the conversation in an effective way and move to new opportunities, but how do you accomplish this with professionalism and poise?

Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that a networking conversation is really part of a process. They don’t accept that these interactions have a natural and normal conclusion, and that managing it effectively increases the impact with a conversation partner. Here are some practical, proven tips to maximize this important transition point.

1.Accept reality. Conversations end, just as life does. Very few people seem to know how or be comfortable with concluding a networking conversation. You can greatly help others by managing this portion of the process and making it easy for them.

2. Watch for signs. Usually there will be a lack of conversation or a loss of interest in the topic being discussed. When this happens, it means that the energy and enthusiasm of the contact is waning. Become more aware when this happens to better manage the process.

3. Decide to act. Recognizing that there is no further value to the conversation can be a signal to either re-stimulate the discussion or change conversation partners. Identifying this issue and taking positive action is both beneficial and necessary.

4. Consider your partner first. Although some situations allow for a quick exit, remember that it is bad manners to simply conclude a conversation, leaving the other person standing alone. Consider their feelings before using this tactic.

5. Summarize the discussion. When you see no further benefit for either party, you can summarize the conversation and indicate you want to move on. You can also at this point indicate that you wish to allow the other person to meet others.

6. Create a follow up opportunity. As the networking interaction ends, it is usually an excellent point to suggest a follow up opportunity, using an issue discussed earlier in the conversation and requesting a business card.

7. Thank the other person. One of the most important and overlooked parts of concluding a conversation is to take the time to thank the other person. This demonstrates integrity, respect and professionalism.

8. Expand the conversation. Sometimes it is just as beneficial to bring another person into the conversation. This allows a change in focus and can allow you to more easily move to another conversation without feeling you have abandoned the other person.

9. Change locations. If you don’t want to abandon your networking partner but want to create some new enthusiasm in your conversation, perhaps you can ask him or her to come with you to another location such as food table, or to join a larger group,

Successful networkers prepare for success. By creating and developing more options to conclude a conversation, you will be perceived as more professional and personable, which has a direct impact on trust and the relationship-building process. Do you have specific question about concluding a conversation? Email me at info@NetworkingForResults.com. Let’s chat. I can help.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Michael Hughes is known as North America’s Networking Guru. Find out more about him at www.NetworkingForResults.com and download a complimentary copy of his 12-page ebook Managing the Networking Experience.

How to Avoid the 5 Biggest Association Networking Mistakes

Business-building, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success, networking in your association No Comments

Contacts and clients often ask me what professional networks they should be part of. The answer is a little different for everyone, but the key is you want to fish where the fish are — joining an association frequented by your target market accomplishes that.

Having stated that, many, if not most, professionals make a number of mistakes that get in the way of maximizing this invaluable resource. Here are the five biggest mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. Having a sense of entitlement. Too often, a business professional will join an association under the misguided assumption that membership equals money. Becoming a member is the price of admission, not a free pass to earning revenues or receiving referrals. There is no quicker route to being ostracized than to presume others will do business with you based on membership alone.

Instead, consider your membership a VIP ticket that serves as an introduction. A primary purpose of an association is to act as a peer-to-peer connection point, facilitating contact between professionals. Relationships take time, need to be nurtured and require investment. Think long-term, not instant gratification.

2. Not building new contacts. One of the primary benefits of an association is its ability to exponentially grow a network. Members attend events with the expectation that they will meet quality professionals. Yet too many members fall prey to the comfort of conversations with existing contacts or colleagues. Then they complain they don’t achieve the results they want or need.

Instead, make it a point of seeking out and initiating conversations with association members you don’t know at every event. Fight the urge to spend all your time with your existing network. Set a new-contact goal for every event. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can make new contacts and how many opportunities arise as a result of your efforts.

3. Focusing on revenues, not relationships. Association events represent incredible opportunities, regardless of whether your interest is professional or personal. Too often, members see these conversations as an opportunity to qualify and close a new client. When is the last time you bought anything of significant value after a 30-second to three-minute conversation?

Instead, counterintuitive as it seems, put your business agenda on hold. Reality is that we buy people first, ideas next and things last, in that order. Focus your interactions on connecting with your conversation partners on a personal level. You’ll be perceived as more personable and professional, and she/he will be happy to meet with you again. Isn’t that what it’s about?

4. Failing to follow up. One of the biggest misconceptions about association membership is that simply attending events generates results. Networking at events holds incredible potential, but requires additional effort and energy to build relationships that lead to results. Yet research consistently confirms that 90% of professionals fail to follow up.

Instead, accept that association networking is about creating and developing relationships. Presume you will want to follow up with every person you meet. That way, you will usually find a reason for the other person to want to re-connect with you, when the real selling can start. End every networking conversation with the question “Can I follow up?”

5. Seeing association networking as a one-dimensional activity. Associations, by their very nature, bring together like-minded individuals. Too often, members attend events with a pre-conceived notion of the value others can supply. They have a narrow view that is strictly client-centered. When they meet someone they don’t perceive as a direct link to business, they quickly move on. Is this you?

Instead, realize that you and your association counterparts are all connected by common interest (whether personal or professional). Expand your thinking about how you can help one another and invest in building collaborative relationships so that you become the person they will think of first when it comes to your product or service.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Michael Hughes is known as North America’s Networking Guru. Find out more about him at www.NetworkingForResults.com and download a complimentary copy of his 12-page ebook Managing the Networking Experience

Bottom of Page