Networking

Why you are wasting your time networking

Sue-Ellen Watts /

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

“Your net worth is determined by your network.”

“It’s all about relationships.”

We hear these statements all of the time and I totally agree with them; I believe these are core to scaling a business. If you need clients, you need as many people as possible to know about your service or product and they need to be talking to others about you.

As wattsnext continues to expand nationally, I am very much back in ‘start up mode’ in some locations, which means getting my hustle on and building my network. Where do you start if you want to meet lots of people at one time? Networking events of course!

Well, unless you make them a waste of your time.

If your plan to build your network is to book into some networking events, turn up, throw your business cards around, tell as many people as you can your elevator pitch and then leave to go to the next event, then you are wasting your time.

When planning your ‘network event strategy’ – what, you don’t have a networking event strategy? – you need to consider your pre- and post activity more so than what happens at the actual event.

Here are my four tips to ensure your time at networking events is not wasted. Nothing in these tips refers to how to approach new people without feeling petrified of being rejected – I’ll leave that to the networking training experts.

1. Stop the scattergun

Activity can be all about the numbers but we all know that quality beats quantity. Before you commit to two hours and $100 for an event, ensure you know who this event is targeted at and who will be in the room. Ask the organisers how many attendees have confirmed and who is on the list. Any information you can get about who is attending will allow you to assess whether this is the room you want to be in. And if you can get this information, decide who you want to meet and connect on social media beforehand. Chatting on social media can be as powerful as a first meeting.

2. Be the first person to arrive

I know you want to just slide into the room at the last minute and find a seat, however, that actually defeats the purpose. You are actually not there for the entertainment (even if it is informative). By being the first person at the event you have the opportunity to scour the nametags to see who is coming and who you want to meet, and you also get time with the organiser – who is a great contact because they have brought all of these people into the room so they know people and can connect you. As a bonus the next person to arrive will come straight to you so you get out of that uncomfortable feeling of having to approach a group!

3. Zip it

While you may feel this is your opportunity to tell everyone about you, this event is actually an intelligence-gathering activity. You are not going to close business at this event. What you want to be doing is finding out who in the room is worth having a one-on-one with at a later date. How will you know this if you are the one talking?

You should only be speaking around 20% of the time and even then, that is to ask more questions. Ask as many questions as you can from the people you meet so you can assess whether they are actually a business opportunity for you and then invite them for a coffee to tell them about you.

4. Remember the event is longer than you think

Your event will always go for an hour longer than planned – if the event finishes at 8:30am, it actually finishes at 9:30am for you. This is the most important part of the event. This is where you sit down at your desk and connect via email and social media with anyone valuable you met. This is when you research the companies of those you met and organise the coffee catch-ups. You can also use this time to make any introductions that could assist those people to grow their businesses (what goes around comes around!). If you do not make time for your post event work, you may as well not bother going to the event in the first place.

Like any business activity, we need to be intentional about what outcomes we are going to get. Networking is no different. It requires a strategy and then execution.

I look forward to seeing you out there! I will be the one there bright and early with my listening ears on!

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Sue-Ellen Watts

Sue-Ellen Watts is the founder of wattsnext, specialists delivering relevant HR for the modern world to SMEs across the globe.

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