I’ve had the privilege of networking with speakers at events and actually speaking at events. I’ve found interesting differences in the way people go about it. This blog is how to build engagement with your target market and how to avoid putting them off.
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Networking at seminars
I always recommend getting there early and leaving later than most, the trick is not to outstay your welcome. Getting there early gives you the opportunity to spend time with the hosts before they get inundated with arrivals. Staying late means you can catch some time with the speaker because they usually hang around when they’ve finished and they’re, typically, less stressed (and more open to chat) when their stint has finished. No matter how many times I present, I’m always nervous. Yet I’ve picked up techniques that mean I’m fine as soon as I get going.
In the meantime, you can mingle with fellow delegates which is a lot easier if you have had the chance to see who is attending. The hosts will happily point you out to people as they arrive. It allows them to move people into the event, which is their main concern when a bunch of people arrive at the same time. That nearly always happens so get there early, avoid the rush and and relax whilst people you want to meet are introduced to you.
As well as the above, you can take a sneaky peek at the list of attendees. If their badges are laid out across the table at the entrance, a quick scan will reveal people you know or might want to meet. You can maximise your time if you have a few focused conversations.
However, please do have random conversations with people that you don’t know because the seminar is something that you have in common. You can break the ice with the subject matter and ask how they got interested in it. Don’t forget to ensure they warm to you by focussing on them in the first instance.
The main thing is to avoid the hard sell. If you’re in general conversation, keep it that way. People just can’t help asking what you do, even if it is because they want to find out if they could be a useful provider for you. Don’t tell them what you are (an astronaut), tell them what you do (further the existence of mankind). People want to be interested and intrigued. If they are turned off by what you do, don’t get disheartened. There are other people that want what you have to offer. Don’t miss an opportunity when you are asked, make it compelling. And please don’t forget to follow up with those that are interested. It might not be them that needs your help yet they may be interested because you can add value to their network. And that goes a very long way in times when trust is thin on the ground.
Example of a classic faux pas
Imagine you are a host or speaker at an event. You have arranged a successful event or overcame the nerves and presented very well. The audience are happy and fill in the feedback forms. Some are even asking you to follow up because they are interested in finding out if what you do will work for them. Now imagine one of them approaches you and tells you how brilliant their services would be for your clients. Naturally, you will ask what they do. And off they go, into a lengthy spiel that makes you hope that someone interrupts.
The disappointment would kick in when you realise that the sole reason they attended was to turn you into an introducer. They have no interest in your service, which is why they turned up late and they offer you an introducers fee before anything else. It dawns on you that they have taken the seat of someone who wanted to attend. Someone that could of become a paying client and reward you for the effort you made in staging the event. Instead you have been offered the chance of becoming a “salesperson” for someone else. It wouldn’t feel great. So please, don’t do that.
Wrap Up: Seminars and exhibitions are great places to network – turn a social conversation into something tangible for business. Apart from the 5 questions in our free downloads, you can talk about the event and reasons for being there.
Top Tip: You don’t have to get there early or stay late. When time is of the essence you should aim to do less networking and spend more time at each event that you attend.
Jason Cobine, The Networking Economist – Building Profitable Networks