In this day and age where people spend so much of their time in the virtual world, face-to-face networking is often overlooked as a powerful tool that helps in building meaningful relationships, increasing personal exposure, and looking for personal and professional growth opportunities.
Whilst it is vital, it has become too difficult for many individuals to accomplish as they are unsure of who they should connect with and where they should give their attention to. This void has brought a new industry to teach these individuals to know who to meet and how to initiate that first meeting. Once an individual start to come out of their comfort zone, they will learn how to engage with more people. They would know how to present themselves, meet new people effectively, and even learn how to listen to someone and watch out for cues that tell them it is time to move on to another person.
Using Conferences for Face-to-Face Networking
Since many individuals work in a digital setting, most meetings and connections often happen through calls and video sessions. However, face-to-face networking will really take their relationships further since they will be able to communicate on a personal level. Conferences are perfect venues to meet different types of people from varied fields and professions. They are great opportunities to expand one’s network. Conferences greatly help in growing a business exponentially. These events are also helpful in filtering out individuals who do not jive well with your business interests.
Attending conferences is easy since dozens of amazing opportunities and specific conferences for particular niches exist. Scout conferences and attend them as they are the easiest method to meet many like-minded individuals. Some conferences introduce people to their potential mentors, which can definitely launch their career or business to the next level.
How to Plan a Face-to-Face Networking
Individuals keen on using face-to-face networking to increase their career or business should come well prepared when they finally decide to make personal connections. To make a successful and lasting impact on people they interact with, networkers must plan accordingly. It is important to maximise face-to-face networking and boost your image and that of your business as well.
Have a Goal
First, have a clear set of goals. What do you want to get out of meeting new people for your business? With this, you can ensure that you are connecting with the right people. If you attend a networking meeting without a purpose, do not expect to gain much. Oftentimes, you do not know these people and you do not really have the whole day to meet each one of them. To make things easier and faster for you, you have to mingle with a fair number of individuals. Similarly, it helps the other parties to also know what you are looking for or what you are offering.
Listen Before Telling
Sure going to networking events is a great opportunity to introduce yourself and market what you offer. However, it is always the best choice if you first seek to listen before telling. You can make a list of questions that you can ask potential connections. Keep it casual and ask about what they do and their interests. Eventually, the conversation will allow you to provide a little background about who you are and what you do. When it is time to introduce yourself, make sure you focus it on your strengths. Networking events are a great venue to let others know how you can be of help to them and that they can rely on you whether for any useful information you might know or connections that you already have.
Prepare Business Cards
Before going to a conference or any networking event, be prepared to hand out business cards. Make sure it has your complete and updated contact information. If you can have one printed out that makes you stand out, do it. If you are looking for a job, you can leave the position blank or write “looking for opportunity.” It shows your honesty and enthusiasm. It is also safe to ask for business cards so you do not forget their contact details.
Be Ready To Mingle
Attending networking events should be about moving around. Spend some time exchanging small talks with the first group you meet but make sure to open yourself up to other opportunities. Spending at least 10 minutes conversing with a person or a group is ample time to make your presence felt. To network is synonymous to circulate and it is not a sin to excuse yourself to talk to someone else.
Have a Follow-Up Plan
As mentioned above, you need to also get business cards. When you excuse yourself from a conversation, take some time to write on their cards and note which of them would be of much help to you. Email them within a couple of days after the event. If you can, email them or connect with their social media platforms within 24 hours so they can recall you easily. Reiterate of what you can offer them or what you are interested in. The key here is sending an email that would help them remember you better by mentioning something you discussed during the event. A standard email won’t cut it.
Following Up After Face-to-Face Networking
Following up after an important face-to-face networking is the most important and crucial of building up your connections. Making a follow up solidifies your relationship after a brief yet meaningful encounter. This step allows you to ask a question further and even may lead to a more meaningful one-on-one meet-up which could help you further your cause.
How do you follow-up? Below are some useful tips to guide you:
Send an email within 24 hours after the event. Remember that timing is of the essence. The nearer to the event, the more likely that person still remembers you.
Bring up a conversation from the event. In networking events, attendees meet a huge number of people. Stand out by mentioning a specific topic you had during the event. You can start by saying, “I thoroughly enjoyed conversing with you after the keynote speech at the ABC Conference.”
Extend help. It is common courtesy to first offer help before asking for a favour. If you can think of a concrete way on how you can help that person, offer to do so. This will make a good and lasting impression.
Offer to meet up. If your contact lives in the same area or near you, never be afraid to suggest a meet-up even for a quick cup of coffee. You may consider opening up the invite to expound on a conversation you had during the event. You can write, “It would be lovely if we can continue our lovely conversation about the best practices in Search Engine Optimisation. Maybe we could meet on Friday and further discuss it over coffee?”
Maximise your LinkedIn. The platform is a great way to connect with your contact. This will strengthen your professional connection. It is a good way to gauge his interests. Eventually, you can even ask your contact to write you a recommendation on LinkedIn. However, never include this in your email. Work on strengthening your connections first before asking for specific favours.
Here is a sample follow-up email that you can send after meeting at an event:
I am happy that I got to meet you at ABC Conference. I had the opportunity to check out your website afterward and noted that we share the enthusiasm on building high-performance teams. Have you considered trying (mention recommendation)? This is the same framework I use for my team, which gave me great results.
I would love if we can talk about it more or share some templates I currently use if you are interested.
Again, it was awesome meeting you at the event and I hope to meet you again soon.
John Doe (include your title/position and contact details)”