Some networkers often feel disappointed after attending a networking function, due to their choice of events. It is easy to make mistakes when choosing networking events due to the plethora of available events each week. Be aware that every networking event will attract a different audience.
Therefore, how do you choose the right event to go to? Here are things you can keep in mind.
Know and keep your goals in mind
Having a clear goal will give you a better direction when choosing the right networking event. Before you decide which one to choose, try some brainstorming to establish who you want to meet. Think about the types of people you want to reach and what their job roles would be. For business contacts make a list based on business categories. You can list these by turnover, by size, by location, by industry, by gatekeepers, by departments and so on. Redefine your listing and prioritise primary and secondary contacts to give you an attainable target.
Pick “interests” over “industry”
Opportunities for networking don’t always have to have the word “networking” in the event description. If you’re trying to expand your network, consider going to events connected to your interests instead of your industry. Plenty of people have met business contacts on the bus or at the gym. Don’t underestimate the positive impact that “fun” activities can have on your career and your business. Sometimes, you meet your best customers at the most unexpected circumstances – simply because you were both present at a place where people with common interests convene.
Don’t limit yourself to one group of the same people
Whatever market and niche you represent, the important point is that you diversify your networking efforts. Every group as its own mission and vibe. It’s important to find ones that are right for you. Hanging out only with other people in your same industry only meets one portion of your business’ needs. This is why it’s important to choose a few different organisations across the spectrum and work them deeply. However, don’t over-spread yourself, that you lose sight of your original goal. Once you have found the perfect people, invest your time and effort in establishing more purposeful relationships with your new contacts. It is far better to belong to a few organisations and build deep relationships through volunteering and regular attendance than it is to belong to everything under the sun but not truly know anyone in the groups.
It is also very important to have a combination of both local and more regional/national events on your yearly calendar. This helps keep you from falling into a rut of thinking and doing things like everyone else in your area. Let’s face it there is nothing like gathering at a large conference and being exposed to such a huge range of diversity in thoughts, experiences, and styles. You just cannot get this experience by limiting your networking to the local business club.
Consider your target audience
Event marketers generally have a target audience in mind for their events, and the marketing material—flyers, websites and even the type of marketing used for the event often reflect that. Choose the right type of networking event by looking through these ads and marketing collaterals to see if the event is apt for your market/target audience. If you see that the hotshots from the telecommunications industry are in attendance, then by all means, go if you own a smartphone business.
Attending a church-related event when you are promoting your girly bar is an example of courting disappointment – not to mention a useless waste of time and energy.
Find the most unlikely jewels among all the mere “people”
So what do you do when you seem to be at an event with the “wrong” people for your purpose? Find people you’re comfortable with. Perhaps the easiest way to get through a networking event is to spend most of your time listening. That might be the case, but first you have to find someone to listen to. When you go to networking events, find one or two people that seemed just as out-of-place as you are. Find the person that may be in your shoes—alone and perhaps not knowing anyone else in attendance. You’ll never know if these “lost” people are the very people you are looking for. If not, then maybe your friendliness will get you a referral towards their own contacts who you might be able to connect with.
Whether you’re choosing an event or have already walked in the door, finding the people that you’re comfortable with can be a key part of a successful evening for you. Sometimes you’ll want to step outside your comfort zone