Real Networking – A How to Guide

Expert AdviceThis post is in direct response to a request I received recently, which read:

“…I wonder if you could write something on networking – I know you’ve covered client meetings and social media, but I mean actual networking events, identifying good contacts, ways to stay in touch etc?”

Given all the online talk recently about communities and community building this is an area I have been thinking about a lot recently and am more than happy to share my thoughts…

Networking Skills | Recruitment DadI use the term ‘real’ to denote I intend to write about face to face networking events as opposed to online and social media based networking. I have to point out the there could well be professionals out there who may not have attended an ‘in the flesh’ networking event who consider themselves well connected networkers. Networking is about establishing new business relationships and those can be cemented so much better face to face, compared to on the internet.

Here I have put together my top hints and tips as to how to get the most out of a networking event:

1. Remember the golden rule of networking – it is about helping others first.

2. Do you research on the event it’s self. Who is organising it? What is their agenda? What is it that is attracting delegates to attend?

3. Get a delegate list before the event. Research who you would like to meet to ensure you don’t miss meeting someone because you hadn’t realised they were going to be there!

4. Set some objectives! Why are you going there? (Yes, I know it is to network but with what purpose??) How will you know if you have had a successful event if you don’t measure the outcome?

5. What is the format? Informal drink reception, speed networking, breakfast seminar or large conference?

6. Rehearse the dreaded elevator pitch. If you read the blog from The HRD, My Hell is Other People,  you will perhaps know that “Hi, I work in recruitment” is the equivalent of a “Get your syphilis here” T-shirt. The type of networking event will influence your elevator pitch. A recruitment fair is a very different environment to The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’ annual dinner (yes, I am embarrassed to say, I have been to a recruitment fair). Think about engaging with people.

7. Take plenty of business cards, a small notepad, your diary and a pen! Write on the back of other peoples’ business cards where you met and key discussion/interest point.

8. Spend more time asking questions about them and their business than telling them about yours. Rapport is built quickest when you are genuinely interested in others. Stop selling and start listening!

9. Make a commitment to actually network with people you don’t know. There are so many networking events where individuals congregate with other individuals they know and have conversations like this:

Delegate 1: “Hi Brian, nice to see you here again”

Delegate 2: “Yeah, you too Peter. Know anyone else here?”

Delagate 1: “Nah – lot of new faces again. How’s business?”

Delegate 2: “Slow actually. Need to find some more clients”

I have witnessed this at all sorts of network events. Get out there and mingle!!

10. Have some rehearsed exit strategies to be able to move on to speak to the other delegates. Don’t let the group “cling-on” (Not Klingon) hold you back from meeting more people. Use the event to make new contacts and get to know people better. More in depth meetings can be scheduled after the event.

11. Networking is easiest in the busiest areas rather than from the corner of the room. When you meet people endeavour to introduce them to someone else you have met whilst you have been there.

Endeavour to follow up within 48 hours of meeting people whilst you are fresh in their mind. This is a mistake made be many – I attended a Sales Conference (with paid exhibitors etc) having met all the exhibitors only 2 followed up on the event (and yes, I had told them all I had budget to spend on external resource). Even BNI (business network UK) #failed to follow up on my enquiry to join.

Related Articles:

The Death of the External Recruiter?

Business Meetings – 10 Tips for Getting Them Off to the Right Start

5 Serious Recruiter Screw-ups on LinkedIn

2 Responses

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  1. Excellent and timely article Dad. There seems to have already been more recruitment networking events in 2010 than in the whole of last year!
    I enjoy networking face to face, as being based in Glasgow, makes opportunities for casual meet ups scarce. After coming 400 miles, I want to make sure my time and cost have been spent wisely.
    I like to see who is attending in advance, and find a reason to call or email them beforehand, saying I’m looking forward to meeting them, and finding out more about their business. I also make a point of asking those I’m already speaking with, if they are attending. This helps to swell the numbers, and means I already know a few people in the room (I hope it doesn’t put people off going).
    I used to be the guy with the notepad, but now find I can take notes on my iPhone much more easily.
    Nowadays I think it’s good etiquette to make time the next day to follow new contacts on Twitter and Linkedin, even if you don’t expect to be doing business with them.
    As an “Old-school recruiter”, I also inadvertently find myself interviewing those I meet, and I should really learn to stop that.

    Stephen O'Donnell 4 May 2010 at 2:05 pm Permalink
  2. Hi Stephen – Glad you liked the article. I also know exactly what you mean about interviewing people you meet. This week I have found myself interviewing my accountant and touting for business in his practice when I am no longer on the tools. Picked up some work though… ;)

    RecruitmentDad 6 May 2010 at 10:09 am Permalink

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