Keep in mind that unlike with cold calling/emailing, at a networking event people are expecting to be approached. No one likes to make the first move so trust me when I say, it’s not you, it’s them. Just smile and say hello to as many people as you can – that alone will go a long way.
To improve your chances of success in generating relevant business leads, however, you should really be thinking about what you need to do before, during, and after the event.
The night before
If possible, always try to get a list of attendees prior to the event. If you go to Meetups, this is incredibly easy. Each Meetup page has a list of attendees and a picture with a short bio in the right sidebar of the page. Click into each member’s profile to learn more about them (and if they might be interested in what you’re doing).
With this preparation work you now have a targeted list of people to approach at the event. Most events provide name tags which you can now match against your list.
At the event
As we know, the best way to measure success is by setting realistic goals. As salespeople, we’re used to working off of metrics. Make 50 phone calls, set 3 demos a day, and close 1 deal every 2 weeks.
Attending a networking event is a sales activity like anything else, so set a goal to speak with at least 10 people every time you attend one. If you’re a bit more reserved it’s okay to lower that goal but make sure you attain it at any cost. Consistency is the only way to see results. Rameet Chawla, founder of the Fueled Collective, talks about using the same strategy when starting his business.
Follow Up Steps
Pro Tip: Read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. He gives a lot of sage advice in that book, but one thing that always stuck with me is his approach to following up with people.
After an event most people shove their newly found business cards into a pocket and forget about them till the next day (best case scenario), after which they might follow up with a select few people.
As a rule, you should always follow up with everyone you spoke with immediately after the event. Everyone is busy, so there’s a good chance you will not be remembered if you follow up the next day. Also, almost no one takes the time to follow up with the people they meet, let alone following up the same day. Doing this will help you stand out, stay top of mind, and make the recipient of the follow up feel appreciated.
You should also send a note to people that might not be directly relevant to your business. There’s always a chance they’ll refer you to someone that is, so don’t forget to ask for an introduction at the end of your email.
Lastly, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to meet everyone on your targeted list. The good news is, you can still follow up with those people! I’ll use Meetup.com again in my example because they make it super easy to communicate with other members in your Meetup. Simply click on the name of the member you’d like to reach out to, and select ‘Message’ under their name in the profile.
Feel free to use the template below for those follow ups:
Hi [First Name],
I didn’t catch you at last night’s [event name] event but was hoping to connect. I understand that you run [department name] at [company name] and wanted to get your feedback on [whatever relates to your business].
Thanks in advance.
Above all, your goal should always be to make a genuine connection that can turn into a long term relationship. This starts with having a real interest in what other people are doing, how they think, and how you might be able to help them. When the timing is right, they’ll be happy to return the favor to a new friend.