Business people enjoying a networking lunch
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Is this a lunch too far?

Do you  really have time for all those networking lunches? Or could you be winning business some other way instead? The answer is probably yes and, as marketers, we would always advocate promoting your strengths through a variety of targeted media, but do you want to lose the personal touch? No matter how virtual life gets, people will still always buy people – which is why we now see lots of chat boxes from ‘real people’ on things like holiday sites. So, in business, making time for face to face networking is still vitally important.

We do a lot of networking and have attended all sorts of groups and meetings at various times of day. We could become the size of a house and have no time to do any work if we attended all the meetings to which we were invited, so how do you pick the right ones and then make them work for you?

  • Prioritise meetings according to your current business goals. Who are you aiming when finding new business? What geographical area are you looking at? (does it matter in these days?) If the meeting does not fit within your new business goals then don’t waste your time attending.
  • Who is going to be there? Don’t know? Ask the organiser! Find out if the other people attending are worth 2 hours of your working day (plus travel time etc). We often find that lunches take the longest working chunk out of our days, so tend to go for breakfasts and evenings. Everyone is different however and sometimes the attendee list really does make it worth attending whatever the time of day.
  • You will fit into some groups better than others. Some groups (a bit like the ones on LinkedIn) will be a better fit for you. We have walked into some networking groups and almost seen the tumbleweed blow across the floor as we introduced ourselves. Whereas others we’ve been made very welcome at. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get a great feel from one group – there are lots of different types to try and you will find one that suits you.
  • Manage your expectations. As with all marketing, you will not achieve much from just one try. Networking is about building relationships with people, which happens over time. Maintaining relationships takes effort – so we return to your new business goals – is this meeting really worth it?
  • Make your elevator pitch relevant. If there is just one person in that room with whom you’d love to do business, aim your pitch at their needs. Make it short – many groups do a 60 seconds round but some only allow 10 second introductions – so have a couple up your sleeve ready to go and practice them. Don’t forget to practice them. Oh, and did we say about practising them?
  • Take stuff with you. This might be an obvious statement, but you would not believe how many people we’ve met when networking who have run out of business cards! If you have any merchandising or other marketing collateral, then you can leave it out for people to take too. Everyone still loves a freebie and if it’s got your company name on it then so much the better. Do make sure you’ve cleared it with the event organiser first though.
  • Relax and enjoy it. This might be hard to do if you’ve had to get up at stupid o’clock in the morning or if you’re worrying about a deadline when you know you might be out of the office for 3 hours. Don’t go if the work is more important, there will always be next time. When you’re out there ‘being your business’ you have to be on top of your game. You can’t do that if you’re stressed. You have nothing to lose when attending networking meetings, so just go and enjoy it.

If you’re new to networking and worried about what to say and do, then we offer a two hour training course that will ensure you leave with a fully fledged elevator pitch and the confidence to make your mark whatever the meeting. Contact us now to find out more.

(This is an edited version of a post first published on LinkedIn, October 2016)

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