If you have a love-hate relationship with networking events, you’re not alone! You might get nervous or awkward before an event or feel like there’s not really a point.
The truth is, from cocktail parties to huge conventions, networking events are a great way to meet new prospects or referral partners. But they can only help your business if you go in with a plan. By following these six steps, you’ll make more effective (and profitable) connections at your next networking event:
- Block your schedule before and after the event.
- Meet 3 quality people.
- Send an email immediately following the event.
- Connect with them on LinkedIn within 24 hours.
- Call them within 48 hours.
- Do what you say you’ll do!
Let’s dive in.
1. Block Your Schedule Before And After The Event
You should treat a networking event like any other sales meeting. You want enough time and energy to give the event your entire presence.
This means you want to schedule ample time before the event, so you’re not coming in hot from a previous meeting. Blocking off time before the event lets you be calm, prepared, and clear-headed. You want enough time to grab your nametag, meet some people, and find a seat—all without being rushed.
It’s just as important to block off time after the event. This is when the magic happens! When you rush out of an event to your next meeting, you miss out on true networking. Throughout an event, people naturally get more comfortable and loosen up—after an event, they’re more open to making new connections.
Morning sessions lead to impromptu lunches. Evening events lead to dinner or drinks with people you just met. That prospect you’ve wanted to meet happens to be free for some coffee. Keep your schedule clear for these occasions!
2. Meet 3 Quality People
At every networking event you attend, plan on meeting three quality people.
You can gather (or hand out) as many business cards as you want. But I enter an event intending to get business cards from three quality people who I want to set up meetings with later.
That means I’m looking at the attendee list and finding out who will be coming. I’m arriving early and looking at the table of nametags to identify who I might want to target when they come in—or who I should try to sit by.
Before an event, I put three business cards in my pocket. My goal is to replace each of my cards with a business card from a quality contact. This way, I can make sure I’m on track to reach my goal.
3. Send An Email Immediately Following The Event
Once you’ve met quality people, how do you ensure you don’t forget about them?
Send an email to anybody you meet—immediately following the event. I try to always send an email before they do. A prompt outreach email communicates so much more than what’s in the body of the message!
For tips on writing the perfect follow-up email, click here!
4. Connect With Them On LinkedIn Within 24 Hours
After emailing, the next step is connecting on LinkedIn within 24 hours of meeting them. If you are a professional, you need a LinkedIn profile. You’re missing out on a huge networking tool if you don’t have one.
Read my article on creating a powerful LinkedIn profile if you need help!
5. Call Them Within 48 Hours
Yes, phone calls still work! A live follow-up conversation is the best way to determine if the person you’ve met is a quality prospect. If they are, you should be well on your way to booking an appointment.
6. Do What You Say You’ll Do!
Always, always, always do what you say you’ll do. Did you say you’d send them an article or an email? Did you say you’d call and set up an appointment? Do it—and do it within the time you said you would.
Failure to follow up is shooting yourself in the foot—but I see salespeople do it all the time. That’s why staying true to your word is one of the five ways salespeople can stand above the crowd.
Bonus Networking Tip: Business Card Backup
People always ask what to do if you run out of business cards (or forget them!) during a networking event. Right now, take a minute and create a contact for yourself in your phone. This should be separate from your default contact card, which has all sorts of personal information you might not want to share. Your shareable contact card should contain only your professional picture and all the business contact information you’d like to include.
This way, when someone asks for your card, you can ask for their number and text a professional, digital contact card from your phone. They’ll have all your info—and you’ll already have their cellphone number!
I hope your next networking event is a blast—and you walk away with some quality conversations!
Until next time—go sell some stuff!