Technology is constantly advancing, in this new digital age, it is easy to neglect the importance of Face to Face Networking… It might be easier to network from behind a screen, but in this article, I will share with you why I believe that networking in person is still the best approach. For 10 minutes, let’s forget the forums and the Facebook Groups!
Even though technology is making it easier for individuals and businesses to connect, Face to Face Networking most definitely still has a place in developing a successful business. It allows you to get to know other business owners and build trust amongst a community. A lot of people, particularly people who did not grow up with the internet at their fingers tips, may be more trusting of someone who they have met in person.
Believe it or not, there are still a lot of different networking groups around. You may be wondering, which group is right for me? Often, you are able to visit different groups as a visitor, go and see whether you like it! Sometimes you may have to go to a group regularly to build up the trust required to secure someone’s business.
Make the Most of Meetings
What do you do? Don’t just say that you’re an Accountant. Say: “I help businesses streamline their finances to make more money”, say anything other than: “I’m an Accountant”. You’re going to have a short conversation if you do. You want to open with something which will ignite a conversation, you want them to ask you questions.
Some of the groups which I have attended have a “60 seconds” round, where you have a minute to promote your business. My approach to this is to have a pre-planned structure – be careful though, you do not want it to sound like you are reading from a script. Try to have bullet points jotted down rather than every word you’re going to say jotted down.
Do not try and force your business card in to the hands of everyone in the room. Ensure that you have a qualified and in-depth conversation with a person before trying to exchange your cards. Talking to someone for 30 seconds, handing them your business card and moving on to the next person is not going to lead to very much success. Networking is about getting to know people and their business. If you don’t get the opportunity to speak to everyone, check the register and contact the people who you missed via LinkedIn.
During a meeting, there will often be a break. Please don’t go on your phone. Use the break to engage with people in the room. If you can do, leave your phone switched off for the duration of the event. That way, there is nothing to distract you from what you’re there to do, network!
You may be wondering, will I get something out of my first meeting?
I’ll be honest, probably not. It may take you a few meetings before you notice the benefit of Face to Face Networking. Like I said before, it is about building a relationship and trust with people who regularly attend these meetings. You never know, you might be lucky and find your perfect client on your first attempt. My advice would be to go to Face to Face Networking without any expectations. That way you won’t be disappointed either way. Remember, even if someone may never do business with you, still talk to them because more often than not, they will have contacts who may want to do business with you. It is important that you establish a relationship with these people and build trust because without trust, they won’t recommend you to their contacts.
To attend a lot of these networking groups, you will have to pay. If you’re just starting out, there are free networking events too. You will be able to find these on websites such as Eventbrite. I’ve tried the free events too, they are great to network with a wide range of businesses; however, the differences are they rely on volunteers and often they will be busy and there might be more than one person offering the same service as you.