by Sam Von Tobel
Love it or hate it, networking is a crucial part of growing the big picture as a business and the smaller picture as a professional.
Sure, it can be a bit of a hassle and (if you aren’t the biggest extrovert in the world like me) it can be downright painful. Here at Roundpeg we like to stay pretty active in the Indianapolis networking community. It gives us a chance to make business friends, find new clients and even mingle with the competition in some situations – all good things.
If you don’t usually do the whole “networking thing” or are new to it like I was when I started out, it can be lot to take in. But, in my short time at The ‘Peg, I’ve gotten my networking sea-legs under me and have even started working on a handy-dandy checklist on the before, during and after of the networking process. Here is a quick rundown of my typical networking routine.
Finding the right event
Trust me: easier said than done. In a hustle and bustle city like Indianapolis there is never a shortage of events going on. However, sometimes finding a relevant event is the tricky part. Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things is definitely important, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should stray far with networking. Look for events that you believe you can get the most out of, whether it’s meeting the right kind of people or at the very least being able to take something valuable away from the speaker or seminar.
I’ve passed up extremely interesting sounding events simply because I knew at the core I would probably just be wasting my time.
When it comes to finding the event my go-to is definitely Eventbrite. It is constantly updated with events and all the major networking groups are actively posting. You can also find good events by checking in with your local chamber of commerce, breweries and social media.
Oh, and just be sure to add whatever event you do end up registering for to your calendar. Nothing is worse than forgetting about it and a) scrambling (I’ve been there) or b) missing it entirely and having to start the process all over.
Stock up on business cards
Showing up to a networking event without business cards is like showing up to a networking event without pants: embarrassing. You may as well turn around and go home because no one is going to remember you without a card and it makes a really bad impression (much like showing up without pants on). Always make sure you’ve got plenty on hand and maybe even a few back ups in the glove box of your car.
With a lot of events you can find out beforehand how many people have registered. Even assuming some people could be no-shows, bring that many plus extras.
Nail down your pitch/introduction
Before you even show up to the event, make sure you have a consistent and engaging introduction or pitch for your business. Take a little time to work it out. You are there to network right? So network! Let people know who you are and what you do. Taking the time to get your message concise will save you the embarrassment of getting put on the spot.
There are typically going to be quite a few people at any given event so you’ve got to make sure you stand out. This is especially important if you are meeting someone who you know would be a perfect business partner or client.
Follow-up with prospects
Networking doesn’t end when you leave the event, at least if you plan on doing it right. If you met someone that you think could be a worthwhile partner or you think could potentially give you their business now or in the future, connect with them. There are a couple different ways you can go about this to varying degrees. Find them on LinkedIn, send them a follow-up email or even invite them out for a cup of coffee to talk about the prospect of working together.
Trust me, it’s going to feel really odd, but you’ve got to break through somehow if you’ve made a good connection.
If you need more help surviving networking or on how to get the most out of your latest event, check these blogs out: