Are you getting the most from Networking?

Networking Blog I love networking whether it’s through network meetings or through my social media platforms. I’ve been networking for as long as I can remember and it’s a big part of helping me grow my own  business for the past 4 years. In fact 40% of my business comes from Networking.

Network meetings can run on various days of the week and at various times throughout the day.

First its finding the one that suits you and your schedule. You may find that breakfast meetings work best as you can then attend a network meeting first thing, some as early as 6.30am and not miss any part of the working day to run your business. You may have to attend a network meeting between school hours. A mid morning or lunch meetings may work better for you. Struggle with anything during the day then there are the options of evening network meetings too. Something for everyone. There are no excuses not to attend network meetings.

There are different types of network meetings.

Open meetings, lock out groups, mixed groups and ladies only.

I would recommend experimenting with various meetings over a few months and find what works for you. Some will ask you to join as a member which requires you to pay a monthly or annual membership and then a payment each time you attend. These are normally the breakfast and lunch meetings and cover the cost of your food. Other meeting may be pay as you go which offer more flexibility. These can work well if you are new to networking, have just started your business or working to a smaller budget. The cost of these will be to cover teas and coffees.

Don’t expect to just attend one meeting and have a flurry of new business and referrals come your way. Networking takes time. It’s about building trust, relationships and people getting to know you. People buy people. In some cases you may find that you need to be attending for between 3/6 months before you start seeing results. So don’t get despondent if nothing happens after a couple of months.

However if you are consistent and follow my top tips then networking will work for you and help you grow your business.

1) Plan ahead – Look at what networking meetings are running local to you each month. Think about how far you are willing to travel to network. Put each meeting you would like to attend into your diary this way you are committing to them. If you have to book a ticket or reserve a space then get those booked and paid for. We are more likely to attend something we have paid for.

2) How often should you be networking – At least twice a month. Please remember the more meetings you attend the more time you are away from your business and of course you need to have the time to follow up. (I cover how to follow up later in the blog). However the more networking you do the more others will get to know you and what you do and how you can help others. I remember when I first started my business. I was told “Network your backside off for the next 6 months) I took this onboard and within 3 months it paid off.

3) Be prepared – It’s a great idea to know where you are going before the meeting especially if it’s the first time you are attending or the venue changes regularly. Take enough business cards with you. I always keep a full spare box in the boot of my car just in case I change bags and forget to put some in. Don’t forget flyers, brochures you may have too. Remember tho these cost you money so you may just want to hand them out should people ask for them. Take your diary, a notebook and not forgetting a pen.

4) Arrive on time – If you are someone who never gets there on time then put the time of the meeting into your diary at an earlier time. For example if the meeting is due to start at 10am put in your diary that it starts at 9.50am that way you know even if you are fashionably late you will be arriving at the right time. Do the same for the ending time of the meeting, give yourself 10/15 minutes at the end so your not rushing to your next meeting, giving you time to chat with others without feeling rushed.

5) Dress to impress – Remember this could be the first time that you are meeting some of the others attending. You have 3 seconds to make an impression. Are your shoes clean, wear something you will be comfortable in. Ladies think about your handbag, many network meetings offer drinks and if you’ve got to make a drink, hold a cup and saucer and then factor in a large handbag it can be a recipe for disaster. Over the shoulder bags, or something that will sit on your shoulder works best. As winter approaches coats and jackets will start to be factored in too, plus hats and gloves, and not to mention umbrellas. Again remember that you will need somewhere to put these during meetings or you may end up holding them or putting them down somewhere and forgetting them. Ive lost many umbrellas this way.

6) Introduce yourself to others – For many this may mean you stepping out of your comfort zone. Build up the courage and speak to people. I’ve never been to a networking meeting where everyone hasn’t been welcoming and nobody bites. We’ve all been there! It was our first meeting once too. Introduce yourself by name, your company and briefly what you do and then pass them a business card. Don’t forget to ask the person who you are speaking to who they are and get their business card in return. Be mindful not to have a one sided conversation use your mouth and ears in the proportion they are given. Mingle too, don’t just speak to one person, you aren’t there to make a new best friend you are there to speak to as many people as you can and getting to know each other

7) Work on your Elevator Pitch – Elevator Pitch? “I’m going to a networking meeting not riding an elevator” Why is it called an “Elevator Pitch”! Think about the time you have with someone in an elevator and the time between floors you would have to sell yourself. Normally 30 – 60 seconds this is where the Elevator Pitch came from. Each network meeting gives you different elevator pitch times, some are 30 seconds, others 45 seconds some 60 seconds. You have a short winded to showcase to everyone who you are, and what you do. This can be very daunting for a lot of people, don’t worry about it too much it’s not as scary as it sounds. Try not to over complicate it either. Think of just covering the basics. The more you do it the easier it becomes. Here are my top tips to get you started:

  • Your name
  • Your company name
  • What is it you do
  • Explain what you have to offer, what are you looking for, or a good news stories or maybe a testimonial.
  • Finish with repeating your name and company.

If you have to write your pitch down on a piece of paper and read from that, then thats fine, no one will think less of you.

My biggest tip is don’t waffle and stick to the time you are given as close as you can.

8) Exchange business cards – Make sure you share business cards with others. Network meetings all have different ways on how this may work. Some will ask you to pass them around to one another, you may be asked to put enough on tables, for some you would just pass your business card to those you’ve spoken to or those that wish to connect with you. Just ensure you have enough for each meeting. Taking 10 business cards to a meeting that is expecting 30 people will leave you short.

9) Make notes – Most network meetings will provide you with a contact sheet that will have details of all those that are attending the meeting. This is great to make notes especially when others are sharing their elevator pitch.

10) Social media or should I say Social Networking – When attending network meetings, take a photo, selfie and post it to your social media platforms. Ensure you tag others from the meeting, the network group and of course don’t forget to tag the venue. I cover social networking within my social media workshops. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/samantha-cameron-17340500727Plus this is perfect content for your social media.

11) Follow up – Following up is so important. If you just go to networking meetings and then do nothing after there really isn’t much point in going in the first place. Make sure you arrange 121’s with others. (I cover the best way to deal with this later in the blog). When I get back to my office  from a network meeting this is what I do:

  • I add the business cards I collected to a great app I use on my phone. It’s a business card scanner app. It works by taking a photo of the business card, collates all the information and stores to your contacts in your phone. It then allows you to create a CRM list. I love this way as I can then throw the card away and makes it easier to find peoples details with a click of a button. No more having hundreds of business cards in drawers and searching for that card you need.
  • I then connect with everyone I’ve met from the meeting through my Social media platforms. In most cases you may not see each again for a month or maybe longer so by connecting through, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram its a great way to stay connected until you attend another meeting together or the 121 you’ve arranged and get to know each more.

 

12) Recommendations/Referrals – There’s nothing better than being able to recommend others to your friends and family. After all this is the main purpose of networking to help each other grow our businesses. You will also find that if you recommend others they will start to recommend you too.

13) 121’s – 121’s are a great way to get to know each other better and share more about your businesses. Here is how I make the most of my 121’s:

  • Set aside certain days each month in your diary to book your 121’s in. I will arrange 3/4 121’s on just one of these days and will do at least one day a month of 121’
  • Message those you wish to book a 121 with to check their availability. I always give a couple of dates and times options.
  • Pick a location. Something public, with ample free parking and of course good coffee. Think about travelling distance too. I will use the same location for the whole day of 121’
  • First meeting morning coffee 9.30am.
  • Second meeting lunch 11.30am.
  • Third meeting early afternoon 1pm.
  • Then a late afternoon if needed around 2.30pm.
  • By staying in the same location it cuts your travel time down and allows you to get more from your day.
  • Allow 60 – 90 minutes for each meeting. If you are meeting multiple people on that day then make each of them aware that you have another meeting booked and you will need to be finished by a certain time.
  • Don’t forget that the 121 is a two way meeting so make sure you are both have the same time to chat and share with each other what you do and learn more about how you can help each other more.
  • You can also arrange to meet with 2 or 3 other people at the same time if time isn’t on your side. 2 and 3 way meetings work well.

 

14) Last but not least – Get the next event in your diary and get booked on. Networking is all about being consistent. You can’t expect to just attend once you need to be a regular.

 

Remember if you support the networking group that group will support YOU!

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