If it takes borrowing liberally from a famous Tom Hanks line in the movie A League of Their Own to lure you in, then I’m guilty as quoted. At least I’m not referencing the “good advice” Jimmy Dugan wrote on some kid’s baseball (scroll way down, y’all) during another memorable scene…
On the surface, networking “happy hours” seem like fun, sociable events, which they can be. But don’t ever think that you’re not working (to get yourself closer to a new client/customer, strategic partner, or referral) while out and about.
Do you attend evening business networking events as part of your marketing/promotional strategy? Then it’s good to have a plan, so you can use your time well and measure your networking success in concrete ways. Here’s your ultimate before, during, and after-networking strategic plan – questionable appetizers, loud bar scenes, and “under the influence” attendees not included:
Before You Walk Out That Door:
- If you’re unsure of the awaiting food options, eat a snack or light meal.
- Check the event’s RSVP list (if available) to identify people whom you’d like to meet.
- Ensure you bring at least 15-20 business cards, a pen that works, and a cleverly concealed notepad.
- If you have your own custom name badge, put it on before getting into your car.
- Ensure your smart, reasonably intelligent, or plain old cell phone is fully charged and with you…
- Check your breath; if possible, brush your teeth. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to look in the mirror and tidy yourself!
- In the car, practice your 30-45-60 second “pitch” a few times. Feel yourself smiling while you do this.
- If possible, plan to arrive at your destination either a few minutes early or on time.
While You’re Working It (for new connections and possible referrals):
- Ask the event’s organizer if they know any of the people from the RSVP list that you don’t yet know; if “yes,” ask for an introduction.
- Say hello to the people you already know and deepen those relationships.
- If you see a lonesome soul hanging out, introduce yourself and start a meaningful conversation!
- Don’t think about your sales pitch or speculate whether or not someone will buy from/hire you – be open minded and refine your listening skills.
- If you intend to follow up, fold a corner of your new friend’s business card, or put the card in your right pocket (or other special location).
- Step away from the crowd momentarily to a quiet place if you feel the need to write a note or two for pending follow up.
- Don’t forget to offer your business card before ending your conversation with a new friend.
After the Networking Fun, the Real Work Begins:
- Before you turn in for the night, review your souvenirs and sort them into “follow up” and “no follow up” piles.
- For those with whom you will follow up, write down some of the highlights of your conversation (for customization).
- Match your specific follow-up method to each person: email versus LinkedIn invitation versus phone call versus Facebook friending, Twitter following, or Google + circling, etc.
- If you made a really meaningful/warm connection with someone, consider sending a handwritten note – this will single you out from the madding crowd!
- Think about why you are following up with someone and mention/request it: a one-on-one meetup, an online introduction/referral, fulfilling an information request or other offer of help, you’re tired of looking for true love on Match.com (joking!), what?!?
- Either do your planned follow up within one to two weeks of the actual event or move on (you were expecting a lecture, weren’t you?).
For more networking tips, check out ‘The Lost Art of Following Up’ and the exhaustive but very helpful businessballs.com site. What didn’t I mention that you feel is missing from my offered checklist? When you’re out and about networking, what techniques work best for you? As always, thank you for your eyeball attention and sharing or bookmarking affection!
Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business writing, editing, and research company. She revels in shielding her clients from the pain of writing their own print and web marketing copy. Call her (856-810-9764) or email her (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a no-obligation project quote today!
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