Some counter-intuitive tips for getting the most from business networking
I’m actually not that great at breaking rules.
I was bought up to believe that rules were there for a reason and that sticking to them was the done thing.
But what I find is that some people stick to rules at business networking events that aren’t even there. They do things in a particular way, because that is how everyone else does them, not because it is written anywhere that they HAVE to be done that way.
Here are some ways to use an event slightly differently, and get much more from each event as a result.
- Arrive early – have more 121s. You all know I’m a massive fan of 4Networking. You also know that you get three 121s at each 4N event right? You can massively increase the number of 121s you have by arriving early at any networking event and having mini 121 meetings with people before the structured part of the meeting even starts. If you’re amongst the first to any event you get even more opportunity to have conversations with people over coffee and find out about them. The meeting may start at 8, but getting there 15 or 20 minutes before that makes even better use of your time.
- Your 40 or 60 seconds is NOT about telling people exactly what you do. It has often been said that your 40 seconds is your CV for the interview not for the job. You need to tell people enough about what you do so that they want to have a 121 with you to find out more. You don’t need to tell people so much that they feel they don’t need a 121 as they know everything about you. It’s a fine balance, but use your 40 seconds to start the conversation.
- Just because it says 60 seconds, you don’t have to fill it. You’re not being cheated if you choose to deliver 20 seconds rather than 60. Make sure you focus on getting your introduction working, not on making sure it fills the time. The purpose of the introduction round is to deliver your message in a way which starts a conversation with other attendees. Don’t ever go over time, ever, but learn to deliver your message concisely and compellingly.
- Stay late – have more 121s. Now you’ve got your perfect introduction which has got people queuing for a 121 with you, you don’t have to turn people down just because you’ve filled all three. Book 121s for once the structured part of the meeting has finished. If you’ve got more than three people excited about talking to you, don’t turn them away just because the meeting finishes at ten. Try not to book appointments which mean you have to rush off. If someone is dying to find out more about what you do and how you can help them, seize the moment.
- So much of the real value in the 121s is what happens next. If your introduction has started the conversation and you’ve used your 121 to find out more about the other person, make sure you book another 121 with them, ideally whilst you’re still sat there. Everyone in business carries their diary around with them. If you really think your services could be of interest to them, ask them there and then if you can have a second meeting with them, either in person or on the ‘phone or Skype. Get it booked in, don’t lose momentum now. If you can’t book it there and then, tell them you will phone them later and then DO IT.
Think outside the box just a little. The structure of any networking meeting ensures the meeting flows, but think about how you can use it to your advantage, rather than just sticking to it rigidly.