Five ways to get the most out of local networking events

Five ways to get the most out of local networking events

No matter where a business is in its timeline of growth, building brand awareness is usually a top priority. Traditionally, this has been done through placing expensive ads and sending email messages. However, one of the best ways for a business to get the word out about the work it’s doing is through its own community. When entrepreneurs network with others in a geographic or industry-specific area, they can join forces.

In addition to social media and other online introductions, one of the best ways to meet others is through networking events. Conferences and trade shows are often teeming with networking opportunities, but those events can be costly, especially for startups with limited budgets. The good news is, no matter where a business is located, there’s likely to be a wealth of networking opportunities within a short drive. If your small business needs the support that can come from meeting other professionals, here are a few tips to help you make networking events work for you.

  1. Choose the right events

    It may take a small amount of trial and error, but you’ll eventually find that there are certain events that yield better results than others. Cast a wide net to find local networking events, including checking online sources and consulting your local chamber of commerce. You may find the most profitable events are those that bring community business owners together to strengthen the geographic area as a whole.

  2. Prepare in advance

    Most of the success you have from networking events will come from the work you do before you show up. If possible, learn who will be attending and formulate a plan in advance. If you can find out ahead of time who will be attending, research them and create talking points. If you can’t get a list of attendees, learn as much as possible about the organization hosting these events, as well as the history of the group. This will help you interact with those who are regular attendees.

  3. Go alone

    If you’ve attended any networking events, you’ve likely noticed how cliquish they can be. Over time, regular attendees gravitate toward the people they already know, limiting the benefits of the gathering. With each networking event you attend, make a concerted effort to branch out on your own, even if you see people you know. Set a goal to meet a certain number of people at each event and find small opportunities to move away from your usual circles to make those connections.

  4. Listen

    Instead of worrying what you’ll say to each person you meet, shift your attention toward what questions you’ll ask them. You’ll make a much better impression if you show an interest in the people you meet than if you dedicate each conversation to regurgitating your life story. Show an interest in each new connection, especially as they’re describing their business. Do your best to remember names and business details. There are other small things you can do to compel people to like you, but listening skills will be the best communications weapon in your arsenal.

  5. Follow up

    To make the most of each networking event, have your after-event plan in place before you go. Collect business cards or note the names of each person you meet and put it to use in the days after the event. You can start by following key contacts on social media. Often you’ll find that the other person returns the favor and a supportive online partnership begins. You can also send an email following up on specifics of what you discussed in person. If you truly see a new contact as a potential partner, request a meeting to talk about how you can work together to benefit both your business and theirs.

Networking events can help entrepreneurs find others who have similar goals. Through the tips and insights you gain, you can tackle day-to-day challenges with more confidence. Over time, you’ll also be able to work with others to achieve their separate business goals, creating a community of business partners much stronger than doing the work without help.

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