In my last blog post, Two Tips to Help Get Past Procrastination in Networking, I discussed that people tend to talk themselves out of going to an after-hours event. One of my tips was to join a morning networking meeting, such as a BNI chapter. However, while joining a morning group can help with procrastination, and I personally believe a BNI chapter is essential to our success in networking, so are after-hour events.
Today I wanted to keep the two-tip theme going and give you two tips to help you get better interactions at your next after-hours event.
Tip 1: Contact Prior to Event– Look at the directory of the organization who is hosting the event and find 3-5 people you would like to meet with at that event. When you have identified those individuals, contact them a couple of days prior to the event and let them know you are excited to meet them there. Let them know you are interested in learning more about them, their business, and how you can introduce them to others. When we make this initial contact it sets up our conversation at the event. It makes the introduction a lot more comfortable and will help us to have a more effective conversation. When we tell these individuals that we can’t wait to learn about THEM, and how we can help THEM, they will be looking for us at the event. This contact prior to the event will also differentiate you from your competitors because NO ONE else is doing this.
This step helped me get meetings with people who never attended the after-hours events because they would either tell me they were not going to be able to make the event, or if I left a message they always called me back. Again, I am telling them I cannot wait to learn about THEM and how I can pass THEM referrals, and that excites everyone.
Tip 2: Prepare – Now that you are setup to have 3-5 meaningful conversations it is on you to make sure that conversation is effective and memorable. Just as you would going into a big sales meeting, it is vital that you do some research and preparation for the event. Again this will differentiate you from anyone else they may talk to that evening. I think it is important to research the individual you are meeting with, their company, and try to see if you can figure out their target market. I would then prepare questions I want to ask this individual that are focused on them, and will help make the conversation memorable. I discuss some of these ideas and questions in the video How to Meet New People.
The key to successful networking in after-hours settings is to not try and get a referral that night. It is to start the relationship building process that will lead to many referrals down the line. The first step to achieving that is to actually be remembered after the event (in a positive way). That way when we follow up on our conversation later in the week we are likely to be able to continue that relationship process.