Online networking affords us an amazing opportunity to meet and connect with people all over the world. Potentially you “could” go to several meetings every single day (not that I’d advise it, but we’ll talk about that on another occasion.) The possibilities are endless…and exciting!
However, you’ll do yourself a disservice if you simply book on and show up to a networking on the day with no idea of what to expect.
Here are some things to consider which will give you a great opportunity to get the best from your next meeting.
What are your expectations?
If you go to a meeting with the intention to “convince” other attendees to #buymystuff then let me stop you right there! Of course, meetings give you the opportunity to tell people what you do, but networking is about forging relationships and building “know, like and trust” with your fellow attendees. Networking is about actively listening to your fellow attendees to understand what they do, so you can be a good ambassador for them and they for you. It’s about supporting one another, continuing conversations, and being consistent with your message. When you trust this process, you’ll see a shift in your business.
What do you want to get out of the meeting?
Aside from attendees hearing your message so they understand what you do and how to be a good ambassador for you, something you should want from the meeting is to convey to others who your ideal client or customer is and/or who you would like an introduction to or to make a connection with. Remember you are not just networking with meeting attendees, but their “address book” too. The six degrees of separation are now nearer three and if you don’t ask the question you’ll never know if they can help you or not. Remember…. You never know who knows who…. And you never know who knows what!
How long do you get to speak?
Understanding the format or structure of the meeting is super important, so you at least have the foundations of what’s expected from you as a participant. Active listening is a must if you’re going to get value from the meeting, but how long do you get to speak?
If it’s a one minute opportunity, then you have 150 words to craft a message. Can you squeeze more than 150 words in a minute? Absolutely! However, you’ll be speaking so quickly you run the risk of the important parts of your message being missed or in a meeting where the time limit is strictly adhered to (especially if it’s a large group) you are literally stealing someone’s else’s time… and that’s not cool!
You can’t tell your audience everything you do in a minute (but believe me, I’ve seen some people try). A minute gives you the opportunity to share a snapshot of what you do, and if you get your message right, it should encourage others to reach out to you to discover more.
If there is a longer opportunity, think about telling your audience:
- Who you are!
- What you do/who you can help!
- What problems and challenges you solve for your clients?
- What are the results of what you do?
- Who are you looking to connect with?
Perhaps it’s a meeting where each member has the chance to speak a little longer about what they do. Member in the Spotlight, for example. If that opportunity is extended to you, then you can bring storytelling into your message for even greater engagement with our audience.
Are there breakout rooms?
A lot of meetings have a breakout room format, where there is an opportunity to be together in a smaller group of participants to get to know one another better. Usually, each member takes a turn and has a couple of minutes to speak. That time goes very quickly and if you as a group waste time on talking about the weather, the state of the nation etc before you talk about your businesses, then you are doing yourself a disservice. Also, you may well run out of time before everyone gets to speak which is a shame.
Ideally nominate a timekeeper very quickly to adhere to the time allocated. If you feel you can’t fill your time, get other attendees to ask you questions and of course tell them who your ideal client is or who you would like to connect with. If you don’t use your time wisely someone else in the room will gladly use it for you. Whether intentional or not there is always a “word vomiter” in every meeting who will talk until the cows come home about themselves and their business.
Is the “competition” going to show up?
It’s worth noting whether the meeting you plan to attend is a “one discipline” per group (only one person from a certain profession) or if several of the same profession are welcome. And if it is a meeting where you might bump into someone who “does what you do”, don’t let that deter you! I often see disappointment and discomfort when attendees come across their “competition” at the same event, but with a message in place that tells people clearly what you do, plus your own unique style and personality, there truly is room for all. When all’s said and done, even if you are in a role that’s highly regulated with little “wriggle room”, people “buy” from people they trust. Their message engages, their vibe resonates, their words evoke emotion.
Letting attendees know how to reach you
You’re bound to meet some attendees you’d like to reach out to post the meeting for a longer chat and no doubt there’ll be people who want to continue the conversation with you too. Keeping a note of who you meet is useful of course but if you’re able to put your details in the chat facility, so much the better!
However, don’t waste a second of meeting time typing in your details. Have something prepared before the meeting that you can cut and paste into the chat. Try not to make it an essay but do ensure you at least include the following:
- What you do
- Website (if applicable)
- LinkedIn or similar details
- Calendar link (if you offer a strategy or get to know me session)
As a courtesy, do check with the meeting host if this is an option and do add your details at an appropriate time. Maybe at the outset the host asks you to add your details or perhaps after you have introduced yourself. Be mindful of networking etiquette, adding your details whilst someone else is speaking is like an announcement that you aren’t actively listening to them.
Online networking means we’re now more connected than ever and there’s (literally) a world of opportunity to reach out and meet new people, forge new relationships and support one another in business.
I will be hosting a talk at Womens Business Networking on 26th August if you would like to join us please book your free place