If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say they hate networking events, I’d be fabulously wealthy. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But seriously, people. You’re in business for yourself. Stop complaining about networking. It’s part of the deal.
I get it, though. Networking events can be a big drag. One of the main reasons people find networking a drag is they’re showing up for the wrong events. They are wasting their time with business card shovers and sketchy fly-by-night types.
When you’re building a successful business, you don’t have time for this. Yet, how do you avoid it? To be honest, you’re not going to avoid it all together. But there are some things you can do to avoid wasting too much time. If you take my advice, you’ll stop dreading networking events and look forward to gathering with some exciting new contacts. Keep in mind, you’re not just looking for potential clients. You’re looking for people that will support your business growth.
Ask In-the-know Peeps
Find a successful colleague in your industry – not necessarily a direct competitor, but it can be someone who does something very similar. Ask that person what events she attends regularly. If you’re new and you don’t know many people, this is a perfectly acceptable way to reach out to a potential new collaborator. You’d be surprised how friendly and helpful most people are in sharing this kind of information.
Check out the Attendee List
It’s really not difficult to figure out who’s going to be there in advance. Snoop around online. Check out the Meetup.com and Facebook RSVPs. Browse the Twitter hash tag, It’s worth it to take the time to be a little nosey. If necessary, contact the organizer. Don’t expect a list of attendees, but try and get a sense of the kinds of people who are expected to be there.
Join a Formal Group
Formal networking groups like BNI can be worth the time and money investment. You are surrounded by people who have committed to making networking a priority, not people who are making haphazard attempts to attend an occasional event. Besides, there won’t be more than one person who offers the service you offer.
Workshops and Trainings
Kill two birds with one stone. There’s a good chance the people you are looking to meet – collaborators, joint venture partners, referral hubs – are looking to learn similar information as you. Learn an important skill and mix it up before, after, and during the breaks. This way, if you end up not meeting anyone useful, you’ve at least learned something useful.
Conferences, Big and Small
You should show up at your important trade conferences – major, niched, and regional. This helps you raise your profile in your field and get to know who’s who. You’ll get to mingle with people and build relationships that will turn out to be beneficial to you.
Coach’s Live Events
If you get great value from free information a coach shares online and that person resonates with you enough to keep coming back, guess what. Their live events are perfect places to meet other people who are on your wavelength. I know the people who attended Uncensored formed bonds with each other that will last for years to come.
Hop on a Plane, Train, or Highway
No longer are we confined to our local area. You can be sitting in a small town right now and make great contacts hundreds of miles away. Technology has brought us closer in many ways and transportation has become faster and more convenient. Don’t limit yourself. If you see something that looks like it might have a potential to make a difference in your business, go for it.
The bottom line is, when it comes to networking, be selective. Skip the stuff that doesn’t appear to have a clear audience and clear purpose, organized by… “who?” Don’t hang with the scavengers and settle for scraps. You can find wonderful opportunities if you open your eyes and remain selective. When you’re still new to the game, this can be a difficult dance; but once the ball is rolling, you’ll have a better sense of when and where you should be showing up. These days, it’s rare that I blow an afternoon hanging with bottom feeders. (Was that mean? Oh well, you know what I meant.) Listen, most of these card pushers are nice, well-meaning people. You just don’t have time to deal. You have money to make!
Leading Entertainment Expert, Entrepreneur, TV Personality, Coach, Author and Sought After Speaker, Marley Majcher is CEO of The Party Goddess! and publisher of the E-Zine, “How To Be A Party Goddess”.