I recently attended a luncheon hosted by the Legal Marketing Association’s Toronto chapter. This is an event that’s held every month for marketing professionals from law firms across the city.
To be honest, ever since I started Boutique Growth, I’ve rarely attended events like these. Not because I don’t think it’s worth it. But simply because this kind of networking hasn’t been a priority for me.
At the invitation of my colleague Mike Moriarity, I decided to give this event a try. The worst that could happen is I’d get a free lunch (thanks Mike!) and maybe even a podcast lesson out of it. And who knows? Maybe I’ll meet some interesting people.
Not only am I glad I went, but I also have a new appreciation for the value in attending events like these. If you’re going to make networking events part of your repertoire, there are a few specific things you can do make the most of them.
Tune in this podcast lesson to learn:
- How to prepare for networking events
- Why you should set targets before walking into the room
- How to have interesting conversations with people
- Why you should always network with speakers and panelists
- How to follow up with your new connections
I recently had the opportunity to attend an incredible event by the Legal Marketing Association. To be honest, up until recently, I have not done a lot of live networking. I’m kind of a digital native and I like to do as much online stuff as possible or at least on the phone.
I very rarely go out of my way to attend live networking events, but to be honest I think I’m missing out. I had a great experience and I have a few ideas on how you can make the most of these live events that I want to share with you in this episode.
I have my friend, Mike Moriarity, who was recently a guest on the show, to thank for pulling me out of my shell to attend the Legal Marketing Association luncheon. This is an event that Mike has been attending for a while and he was gracious enough to invite me as his guest to attend the event.
Through that experience, I picked up a few of the best practices in how to get the most out of these events and really make them worth your while. I know that a lot of us, our eyes kind of glaze over when we talk about networking, right?
There’s nothing that’s more painful than just going to event after event after event and just handing out a stack of business cards and making all this meaningless small talk, and in the end, none of it actually translates into any kind of tangible business results.
That’s not what I want you to do. I want you to do something much more deliberate, much more strategic and I’m going to give you six tips right now that you can use to make the most out of these live networking events and translate them into actual business results.
#1 – Choose your events wisely
Don’t cast a wide net. Don’t spray and pray. Choose your events wisely. Be very deliberate about the types of events that you attend. First of all, you want to make sure that you’re target clients are going to be at that event.
You want to make sure the people there are the people that you want to do business with or they’re potential partners. Whatever it may be, there has to be a really clear tie in to who’s at the audience and who you want to work with in your business.
I’d rather you attend maybe one event per month that’s very strategic, that’s very dialed in and that you can invest a lot of time and energy into attending and getting the most out of, than doing three or four events a month and spreading yourself thin.
I’d also encourage you to become a regular at a few events. If there’s a handful of events that happen on a monthly basis or a quarterly basis and it’s the same kind of folks that are coming in month after month, or quarter after quarter, and those are the types of folks that you want to be networking with, you want to be doing business with, then become a regular at those events.
Sometimes it’s hard to get results out of just one attend or two attends. You want to be showing up time and time again. You want to become a regular face at those events so that you become somebody that people have a certain level of familiarity and likeability with.
#2 – Find out who’s going to be there
My second tip is to find out who is attending the event in advance. Sometimes for these events you have a public group of some sort. Maybe there’s a LinkedIn group that’s filled with the event’s attendees. That’s a good place to look to see who’s attending.
Scan their profiles. See who you’ve already connected with. See who you might be a second connection with. See who you might want to be networking with while you’re there. If a few people stand out to you as being relevant prospects or people that are of interest to your business, then make note of them and when you’re there, look for them.
Sometimes there’s public directories of who’s attending, so if it’s like a meet up event or something like that then you’ll be able to see who’s attending on that platform. Sometimes the organizers will publish a list of attendees, so that’s something that you can tap into as well.
At the very least, if there’s no public list of attendees, ask some people who you know in the industry, some industry colleagues, if they’re attending and if they know who’s attending, so at least you have kind of a lay of the land. The goal here is that when you come to the event, you want to at least have a sense of what kind of people are going to be there so you can plan your attack accordingly.
Now, also, if there’s going to be a panel or a keynote or a speech of some sort, you want to pay attention to who’s going to be on stage, who’s going to be there on the panel giving the keynote, because those are usually pretty good folks that you want to be networking and building relationships with.
#3 – Set goals before the event
My third tip is to set a goal before the event. Decide for yourself, what do you actually want to get out of this event? If that’s a hard question to answer, if you can’t really figure out what you’re going to get out of attending that event, then that’s a pretty good indicator that you’re attending the wrong event.
You need to really translate this into a concrete goal that you can achieve that ties into your business. Consider things like who you want to connect with. What are the types of people that you want to connect with at the event? How many people do you want to speak to? How many conversations do you want to have? How many prospects do you want to meet and greet with at this event?
Whatever it is, figure out what outcome you want to achieve from this event and then be very deliberate about achieving that outcome while you’re there.
#4 – Work the room and don’t be shy
Tip number four is work the room. When you’re there, don’t be shy. You’ve got to come out of your shell. If you’re an introvert like I am, believe it or not, I am the quintessential introvert.
When I go to an event like this, when I see a bunch of people standing around smiling and chatting, my temptation, my comfort zone, is to go and hide in a corner and just sip on some Coke and watch the festivities from there, but that’s a waste of time.
If I’m going to do all the hard work of going to this event and commuting and planning, if I’m going to invest my time and my energy in this event, I might as well make the most of it.
The best way to make the most of it at these events is to go and work the room. Shake as many hands as possible. Have as many conversations as possible. Be the guy that’s there, that’s approachable, that’s smiling, that’s easy to talk to. That’s the best way to make the most out of these events.
If you feel very nervous about having these conversations, if you’re the type that’s very apprehensive about starting new conversations, here’s what will put you at ease. You don’t need to talk about yourself.
In fact, the less that you talk, the better. Instead, ask a lot of questions. Be very curious about other people. When you meet somebody, ask them about their business. Ask them what they do. Ask them smart and curious questions about their work.
That’s actually the best way to get people to open up to you, because everyone loves talking about themselves. If you take a genuine interest in people, they’re going to immediately begin to like you and to find that conversation valuable, and that’s what you want.
The last thing that I’ll mention about that is you need to have some kind of an elevator pitch ready. To be honest, I loath the term elevator pitch, because nobody pitches in an elevator, and 30 seconds is actually too long of a pitch.
You don’t need a long and drawn out pitch ready, but when somebody asks you, and they will ask you, it’s inevitable, “So, what do you do?” You need to have a nice, tight delivery of what it is you do. You need a really nice, concise answer that communicates what you do, communicates your value proposition and also begs follow up questions.
You don’t need to say everything in your answer, because that would likely take far too long and their eyes will glaze over and you will have lost them. You want to say enough to pique their interest and make them ask questions like, “Oh, that’s interesting. Who do you work with?” Or, “Oh, really? So how do you do that?” Or, “Oh, I’ve never heard that before. What’s your approach?” That’s what you want. You want the follow up question which will then engage them in a conversation.
#5 – Network with the influencers
Tip number five is to network with the thought leaders. Again, the people that are on stage, the panelists, the keynote speakers, even the event or the conference organizers. Go and build relationships with them, because these people have networks.
These people have relationships. They’re on that platform for a reason, so if you can engage with them, if you can build a strong relationship with them, guess what? You’ll eventually be able to tap into their entire network.
If someone’s speaking, if there’s a keynote or a panel, listen really closely. Take good notes and come up with interesting questions that you can ask them afterwards. Then afterwards, go up to them, shake their hand, thank them for the speech or for the panel presentation, or whatever it may be, tell them that you really appreciated it, tell them what you got out of it, and then ask them a smart question.
Now, if you’ve ever been the person that’s on stage giving that speech or that keynote presentation or that panel discussion, then you’ll know that one of the most rewarding things is after you’re done, when people come up to you who are genuinely appreciative and genuinely interested in what you had to say. When they ask you good questions, that is incredibly rewarding. It really makes you feel good. You want to make them feel good and be genuine about it, and that’s a great way to spark a new relationship.
Also, have a call to action, that when you go and you engage with the thought leaders and the influencers and the keynote speakers and the presenters, have a call to action. What do you want to do in the end? You’re going to have that conversation, you’re going to build some rapport, and then what are you going to do with it? Grab their business card.
Ask them if you can give them a call sometime to talk more about what they discussed or to pick their brain. Ask them out for a coffee. Whatever feels appropriate. There’s no hard and fast rule here. You have to gauge the situation.
One that I use quite frequently, and I used it at this event, is I ask them if they’d be interested in coming on my podcast as a guest. Not to everybody obviously, but people that I actually think would be relevant and useful guests on the show, who have a point of view that I want to share with my audience, I’ll ask them to come on the show.
In fact, a couple of people from that Legal Marketing Association event that I attended are probably going to be on the show very soon.
#6 – Follow up after the event
Now, my sixth and final tip is connect with people after the event. Take all those business cards. Take all the people that you met, all the new relationships, all the new conversations, and follow up with them after the event. Don’t just go cold. Don’t just forget about whatever happened and hope that they’ll remember you next time. Actually follow up.
A good practice is take all those business cards and send LinkedIn connection requests to all those folks, and mention in the note, in your connection request note, “Hey, I met you at so-and-so event. It was great talking to you. Thought we should connect here.”
Now you have a formal relationship on LinkedIn where you can communicate. They’ll see your updates. They’ll see your content, if you’re producing content. You can send them direct messages. It’s a great way to connect with people after the event, but also follow up with them via email.
If you had a really in depth conversation with somebody and maybe there was a follow up, maybe you wanted to chat with them about something in particular, maybe they wanted to chat with you, send those email follow ups and clarify what the next step is to take the relationship forward.
That’s a wrap. Those are my six tips on how to make the most of live networking events. If you do these six things and you’re very particular about the events that you attend and strategic in what you’re going to achieve at those events, I think you’ll have quite a bit of success.