In a world where every business is increasingly facing new competitors, it’s very important to get out there in person to gather new contacts. Gone are the days when you had to try more than once for an appointment or for the gatekeeper to put your cold call through. Today, you sign up to an event if you know your target audience will be there.
You get your business card ready, refresh your elevator pitch and make a list of the people you should shake hands with. When you leave, you’ll have a pocketful of email addresses and phone numbers for your database. If that doesn’t sound like something you’re doing, here are six of my favourite types of beneficial events and networking opportunities you could start with.
Trade shows and exhibitions
The biggest advantage of attending trade shows for business networking is they focus on a main industry. It makes it easy for you to create brand awareness and make direct negotiation with decision makers who will be in the highly targeted audience. You can exhibit your product or service to individuals or businesses who are more likely to need them. It’s a great place to branch out through business-to-business marketing.
If you don’t want to exhibit, you can go as a visitor and make the most of the event by introducing yourself to other visitors and the exhibitors.
In a similar way to trade shows, conferences allow you to make new connections with a targeted audience of highly qualified buyers. You could become a speaker, panel member, sponsor or exhibitor. All these opportunities give the chance for your audience to see, experience and ask questions before they try your product or service.
As speaker or exhibitor, you’ll get a bio in the program booklet. Your logo will appear for all to see, and depending on your level of participation you’ll likely get a mention in the ‘thank you’ speech and the media releases.
These are designed solely for business networking, not for training, educating or showcasing. Often there’s a special guest to open the event and they’re usually chosen for their position as a leader in their industry. Networking sessions for entrepreneurs and professionals are usually over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. They offer the opportunity to meet new people who are all there for the same reason, which is to make new connections with like-minded people, potential leads or collaborators.
Breakfast, lunch hour and sundowner series
Series are usually held once a month and provide a venue where entrepreneurs and professionals come together to share, discover and discuss new happenings in their field or industry. Each is set up as an informal session for an audience of around 20 to 30 people.
These breakfast, lunch hour and sundowner series are held at cafes, restaurants or hotel lounges. They come in various formats but in one to two hour blocks, in short bursts over a few months, to create a series from which people learn something. The formats include stimulated discussions, presentations, seminars, and business training and education sessions.
Industry workshops and seminars
Business networking can also be done at workshops and seminars. Each business exists for a reason: to provide a solution. However, it’s hard to survive without training. Therefore, every single business will at some point send their staff – the decision makers included – to industry training. So this is also a good venue to find new contacts.
Not only do you get to talk to the people sitting next to you, but during the breaks you can chase those spotted when everyone was asked to say where they’re from.
Your very own (free-for-all) event
Why not organise your own event and invite the most suitable audience? Make it one that people can attend for free. Use online event organising sites like LinkedIn and Eventbrite to get the word out. Send information to current clients and other contacts for them to distribute throughout their networks.
Leave flyers in places where they can be picked up by your target audience. With your own event, you choose the topic and focus the event on your audience and how you can help them.
The bottom line is…
If you want new contacts, then get out there and become more connected. Make the most out of every situation so you leave with usable contact details. If you haven’t given networking much of a thought, you should take advantage of the next suitable invitation that lands in your inbox, because you never know who you might meet and how a simple handshake can strike new deals for you.
Don’t forget your business card and to make a good impression.
Do you know of any other types of events where you can market your business?
Are you holding an business networking opportunities in Perth?
Image by Official GDC