I've heard some bizarre statements in my business experience, so far. But claims about not ‘needing' to attend networking events or being hell-bent on remaining ‘too busy' to pop into even one a month, tend to grate on me the most.
Many professionals have built their businesses through networking alone; and I can personally back this claim up, with first-hand experience.
So, whether you're an accountant, a painter, a start-up, or a corporate Casanova- read on to find out why you need to roll up your sleeves, and make a statement at more networking events.
1. To Build Relationships (not pitching)
There's a famous quote that gets bandied about in the business world a lot; ‘people do business with people'; and if you haven't heard this, then you truly have been off the scene for too long.
The clue is in the title here, networking events are about networking, i.e., connecting and mingling with like-minded individuals. Many people (newbies, especially) confuse relationship building with shameless selling. I've been there too, but attending a networking event with ‘selling' as your focus, is not an effective strategy! Chances are that your associates will pick up on this and immediately feel disconnected with you.
Instead, break the ice, get to know people beyond surface-level ‘hellos', and the business will naturally follow. Forming the basis of long-lasting professional relationships, is the entire point of networking events.
2. To Learn
Most business networking events host hot-shot keynote speakers; professionals who have made an impression in their respective industries
Although it's important to be selective about the events you attend, it's a good idea to be open to as much learning as possible; especially in the early stages of your business set-up, as your mind will be needing to soak up information like a sponge.
There will always be more experienced business owners than you at networking events. It can be easy to feel intimidated by this if you're not a regular networker, but this is actually a great opportunity to pick people's brains. Remember that there's a way of doing this with manners and finesse; look for the right time and place and don't bombard anybody with countless questions and incessant nagging.
3. To Get You Off Your Backside
And not just on the day of the event; if you attend a get-together with a positive mindset then it'll help you get off your backside, long-term.
It's a kind of guarantee in life; your mindset is determined by the calibre of people you surround yourself with. Whack yourself into a room full of high achievers, and it's a sure-fire way of inspiring you to work harder on your own goals. We all need a kick up the butt sometimes, and networking events are fab for reigniting that fire in your belly.
4. To Grow Your Business
Some may argue that it's a ‘controversial' statement to make, but generating leads is at the back of many people's minds when attending a business networking event.
And this is okay; you need to make a living after all.
It might take some getting used to, but think of generating leads as a ‘bonus', as opposed to a ‘must' when walking into a room full of professionals. Don't set yourself any unrealistic targets either; focusing all your energy into meeting ‘potentials' will only take away from the enjoyment and long-term value of the event.
I have picked up several clients through the networking events I've attended. Not because I have directly pitched to anyone, but because I've managed to get myself ‘out there'; which in turn has led to referrals, weeks (sometimes even months) down the line. Patience pays in dividends here.
Be prepared to engage with any other attendee who takes an interest in you, these are the first and most enjoyable steps of growing your business.
Remember that networking events are created to be enjoyed, as well and believe it or not, there's no harm in having fun whilst you're doing business. So, the next time you're invited to a professional get-together, instead of writing it off, consider the immense value you could gain from it.
The Business Networking Show on September 15th is a great place to start; where we'll host world class speakers, attendees from various industries, and make you feel right at home. Book your place, now.