Dr. Johannes Ripken
Getting the most out of Networking Events
The time of networking events is here again.
I notice this in the form of many events at which I am on stage or "only" present as a participant. Here you can make valuable contacts and it is not uncommon for new business or cooperation opportunities to arise as a result. But even though these events are usually rather casual, attending a networking event should not be unprepared. With the following tips on how to prepare for networking events, I will show you how to get the most out of networking events.
Stage 1: Preparation
Participating in networking events without goals is not really useful. Therefore, first think about what you want to achieve and at which events you can achieve it. Formulate your goals as precisely as possible, e.g. "Meet new direct customer contacts" or "Maintain relationship with contact X and Y". Also actively consider the question of what you should prepare for this event and what you should take with you (pitch, business cards, flyers, QR codes).
Select your events
There are several industry events, but you should consider where you want to go and where you can go. Large industry events should be a regular part of the networking calendar. But every industry also has smaller events, which are sometimes even better for networking because the participants are more tangible. Check Facebook, LinkedIn, Meetup or the websites of relevant industry institutions to see if networking events have already been announced.
Prepare your pitch
An important part of a networking event is presenting yourself. Unfortunately, nothing looks more unprofessional and uninteresting than stuttering in front of someone or not getting to the point. What is your current position? What new tasks are you looking for? What are your qualities and strengths? How can you help others? Prepare a short elevator pitch saying what you want to say about yourself.
Research the participants
After you have prepared your pitch, it is always interesting to know who else will be in the room. For many events, there are now Facebook events whose list of participants can be viewed. Organisers and ticketing service providers in the B2B sector now also work with guest list systems or even small communities for the events, so that you can directly view the complete guest list and contact the participants directly if necessary. Consciously select according to your business goals who you would like to meet and with which contacts you would like to improve your relationships.
Arrange fixed meetings with the selected participants in advance.
The more 'important' the person is, the busier they will be at such networking events because many people will want to meet or talk to that person. If you want to make sure you talk to the person, contact them in advance and make an appointment. This gives planning security for both people and guarantees that you can talk in peace and it does not remain with short small talk. Other advantages: The first ice is broken and it is easier to start the conversation.
Know the current trends und topics
There is a lot of talk about new trends in the industry, especially at conferences and networking events. Make sure you are up to date with the latest industry topics and trends. For example, read business news or relevant blogs regularly to ensure you are informed and knowledgeable in your conversations.
Stage 2: Visiting the networking event
The first contact
The first contact is only difficult if you have not already done this step in the preparation stage as described above. If you want to talk to a particular person, join their discussion group or talk to them at an appropriate moment. Do not impose, especially if the person is in a one-to-one conversation.
The first sentences of a conversation are the most important. Make eye contact, shake hands, remember the other person's name. Before you immediately start talking and rattling off your pitch, take the opportunity to ask initial questions such as "What is your position?", "What are your challenges?", "How can I help you?" or talk to the person about current or past events with context to your common professional topics. After the other person has introduced him/herself, he/she will listen more attentively to your introduction, especially if you adapt your introduction to your counterpart.
Present yourself, but don't sell
Now introduce yourself briefly and crisply and use your prepared, possibly adapted pitch. Try to speak freely and easily, otherwise your presentation will quickly seem rehearsed. Sell yourself authentically and smartly. However, please avoid trying to sell your product or service at the networking event - in other words, to acquire customers there. That doesn't work, it has to happen in the follow-up process.
Save the contact details, if necessary
A networking event is an opportunity to make first contacts and get in touch with interesting people. When you have had an interesting conversation with someone, ask for their business card or at least an email address or contact details. Thank the person for the conversation and move on. Don't wait too long to sit down and write down important personal information about the person, e.g. on the business card or in your smartphone. This will make sure you don't forget anything.
Stage 3: Follow-Up
Send Emails and plan the next step
Nothing is more impersonal than sending an uncommented LinkedIn invitation or Facebook friend request. This is OK during the conversation and a hint in the conversation, but not as a follow up. Rather, take the opportunity and write an individual email or message. Thank them for the nice conversation and briefly summarise what you talked about. What should not be missing is an outline or a proposal for a concrete next step (e.g. a meeting or video call).
Today's economy is based on contacts, networks and relationships. Therefore, it is particularly important to organise and maintain these.
A structured introduction to the topic is provided by my free Business Networking Masterclass.
I am of course also available for live workshops and as a speaker! Get in touch!
In this sense: Happy Networking!
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