*First published on the Sarah Hurley blog in 2016*
If you’re not a natural networker or social butterfly, business events can be a scary prospect! but there is truly no better way of connecting with people and getting your business out there, as well as getting in front of those people you just HAVE to meet. People buy from people, its a fact, so having met you in person, that email, sample product, proposal or phone call will be much better received than if you went in cold. I’m not a natural at this, the first time I went to a trade show by myself I rushed round and got the heck out of there as quickly as possible! Now, I love attending trade shows and really look forward to being there. I remember being invited to my first ever networking event, I didn’t know anyone and the prospect of walking up to a group of people and introducing myself made me feel a bit sick, now I make it my mission to meet at least 3 new people – not too daunting! and I often meet lots more. So here are my tips for making the most of your next event…
- Be Prepared!
Make sure you know where you’re going, what time to be there and your route, turning up late and flustered will only make you feel worse! If you’re early you can grab a coffee or go for a walk around the block to calm your nerves. Research the event, know what the purpose of the event is, who will be there and if you can email those you want to meet beforehand letting them know you’re attending and look forward to meeting them. Finally, take lots of business cards!
- Have a chat up line
OK, not really! but you should have a short snappy intro that doesn’t sound cheesy or salesy. Start with your name, your company name and a brief summary of what you do. Like, really brief, one or two lines if you wrote them down. I remember meeting someone at an event once who told me the whole story of her, her products, every element of her brand, by the end I’d tuned out and couldn’t even remember her name – let people ask you questions to find that out, then you also know what they are interested in and can structure your answer! For instance, I once met someone from a large retail chain, I COULD have stormed in telling them every single fantastic product I make and could supply them, instead I told them my chat up line, something along the lines of ‘I own a group of companies in product design and development, licensing and publishing in the creative lifestyle sector’ they asked me if I could design products for them – not something I’d ever considered but actually better than what I’d have pitched! Listen more than you talk, it’s a winner!
- Tell them it’s your first time
When you receive your invite, let the organiser know it’s the first time you’ve done anything like this but you’d love to attend, ask if they have any advice. Quite often, if they know you’re on you’re own, they will catch you as you walk in and introduce you to a couple of people to get you going. Let them know it’s your first time too and they will often keep the chain going – pretty soon you’ll have a whole bunch of new friends! When I organise events with CHA-UK we always look out for people on their own and make sure we look after them, as an organiser we want people to be happy and get the most from the event so they come back!
- Set a Goal
You won’t want to break it! Whether it’s to introduce yourself to one particular person or set a target of how many new people to meet, you’ll be fired up to reach that goal. One trade show I attended a few years ago I set myself a goal to meet a particular person. I was so nervous that day and REALLY wanted to go home, it made me march up to that person and hand them my business card just so I could get out of there! When you set yourself a goal, you’ll make yourself do it so you don’t let yourself down, remember why you’re doing this!
- Make eye contact
Don’t spend the whole event looking at your phone, look around, look for other people on their own or in smaller groups and make (non-creepy!) eye contact and smile, you’ll find that all people on their own at these events tend to find each other and remember, everyone in there wants to meet new people too!
Thanks for dropping by today!