The Countdown to Networking Success

Networking events can be invaluable to your career as they provide opportunities to meet industry peers, exchange ideas, and generate leads. However, there’s more to these conferences, luncheons, and seminars than strong handshakes and snacks. Here’s our countdown to conquering your next industry event.

Four Tasks to get Ready for an Event

shutterstock_140530141Familiarize Yourself with Relevant Topics

If you’ve never used Google+ before then a seminar about advanced Google+ practices will be lost on you. It’s time to do your research. If you’re completely unfamiliar with the concepts, you won’t know what the speakers are talking about and won’t be able to contribute to the conversation.

Try to read up on the main discussion points before attending an event. Unless it’s specified “for beginners” this isn’t the place to get your feet wet. You’re going to be hob-knobbing with industry leaders and need to know what you’re talking about.

Reach out to Attendees

If you’re worried about attending a conference or event for the first time or are just getting your feet wet in an industry, turn to social media and start talking to people about it. Follow the event hashtag and respond to tweets about it. This is a great way to get to know the people and start the conversation early. When you finally arrive, you’ll already know with a few faces and be able to continue your discussions from Twitter.

Clean up Your (Online) Act 

Let’s assume that you’re an incredibly interesting person. Everyone who you meet at the upcoming luncheon, conference or meet-up will want to connect with you online. Imagine their dismay when they discover a stale LinkedIn profile and a Twitter account that’s basically a play-by-play of the local club scene.

A few weeks before an event, update your profiles and start transitioning your accounts to have a more professional feel. You don’t have to completely give up who you are, but you want to present something that interests people in your industry. The fabulous connections you make at a networking event can fall through if your online presence is unappealing.

Set Goals and Measurable KPIs

“The networking event was a success; I talked to a lot of different people.” That is both vague and unhelpful. As you research the topics and talk to the people who will be attending, set goals for tangibly measuring you success.

  • Who do you want to connect with in person after talking online?
  • What do you hope to learn from the speakers or seminars and how will you apply that to your marketing efforts?
  • How many complete strangers do you want to introduce yourself to?
  • How many follow-up tweets or emails do you want to send?

Setting goals will keep you on your toes at an event and prevent you from getting swept up in the glamour of networking. Plus, when you leave you’ll be able to reflect on whether the event was a success for you and your company.

Three Don’ts for Once You’re There

shutterstock_129167534Don’t be afraid to make the first move. 

The session has just ended and your industry hero is standing less than 10 feet away from you. Silently you imagine all the great conversations you know you two could have. You want to tell them how awesome you think they are, you want to ask their advice on a problem you face… you just want to shake their hand.

Then they walk away, and the moment is gone.

More often than not, moments with mentors and industry leaders are lost because people don’t go up and start the conversation. Honestly, they’re probably not going to walk up to you and introduce themselves, so it’s up to you to push through the crowds and make the first move.

Don’t Be Creepy.

Now’s your time to shine by talking to the people you met online, but don’t be overly invasive with the information you have. Just because you know someone just celebrated their 12th anniversary and honeymooned in Hawaii doesn’t mean you should pull that information out in conversation – unless you discussed previously.

Overly prepared icebreakers and crossing the creepy line during conversation can make the people you’re networking with feel targeted or violated. No one wants to feel like they’re on The Truman Show or that they’re private information is getting spread around the web.

Don’t expect people to be the same on and offline.

In our October webinar, Melissa Fach told conference goers that people may behave differently in person than they appear online. People with unique voices on their blog or big personalities on social media might be shy when it comes to interacting with big crowds.

Also, don’t be shocked when the person you talk to via email or Twitter looks different from their icon. The mental picture in your head is gleaned from a tiny, pixelated image that might have been taken years ago. Expect the people who you follow online look drastically different in real life.

Two Tips to Keep the Relationship Going

shutterstock_90438055It’s 2013: What’s On Your Business Card? 

What you put on your business card dictates the actions potential leads, peers, and employers will take to continue the conversation. How do you want them to contact you? Think of your card as a call to action: the person you met enjoyed the content (talking to you) and now are going to convert (by emailing a follow up question, calling about a product, adding you on Twitter, etc.).

Rather than feel overwhelmed by the number of social networks and emails you can add, pick and choose what information best meets your needs. For example, professionals at an online company don’t need to prominently display their address, but a local flower shop would want to feature its store to encourage customers to drop by.

Melissa Fach also recommends having multiple business cards for difference occasions. For conferences and speaking engagements she has cards with just her Twitter handle printed on them. That is her call to action for people to connect further with her online.

Despite the rise of technology, business cards are still perceived as valuable tools: 90% of small business owners believe networking leads to more business, and 78% believe that the business card is key to networking. Think about that data next time you want to skip the printers.

Taking the Relationship Online: The Social Media Tango

Whether you meet someone new through a personal introduction or a professional event, the social media tango inevitably follows. First you follow someone on Twitter. Then they add you on LinkedIn. Then you add them to your Google+ circles. They in turn add you on Facebook. Together you dance until you’re connected on too many social networks to keep track of.

Whether you meet someone new through a personal introduction or a professional event, the social media tango inevitably follows. First you follow someone on Twitter. Then they add you on LinkedIn. Then you add them to your Google+ circles. They in turn add you on Facebook. Together you dance until you’re connected on too many social networks to keep track of.

Frankly, the social media tango is better than the alternative: one person adding another on six different networks less than 12 hours after the conference ended is invasive. In the same way that you avoid crossing the creepy factor when meeting someone in person, you have to avoid it when taking the relationship online.

And One More Thing

shutterstock_142824097We may have reached the end of our countdown, but that doesn’t mean our work is done. Networking is a process, not a checklist. It’s up to you to keep the conversation going to turn leads into sales and to turn connections into professional acquaintances. Even people who have been industry leaders for years go to events to meet new people and share ideas. Networking shouldn’t just be a marketing tactic but rather a life skill.