When you leave the house to attend a networking event, do you think about the image you’re portraying? Are you thinking about who you want to meet or what you want to say in your 30-second commercial? If you’re not, you’re missing out on opportunities to build your business.
Small business owners, YOU are your business. Every time you leave the home or office, how you look, what you say and what you do are a reflection of you and your business. Your image is your brand and your brand is your image. Attending networking events is essential to building your business.
Here are tips for how to attend a networking event:
- Dress for Success: Every time you leave the house you have the opportunity to meet a new client or customer. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been working at a coffee shop, dressed in jeans, t-shirt and a hat, and met someone who could be my next client. I might get a pass because I am a creative but it’s still not the image I want for my business. That is why it is important to dress for success even when you’re running out for a carton of milk.
- The Handshake: Don’t be the limp fish at your next networking event. Give a firm handshake and look the other person in the eye. A limp handshake tells the other person you aren’t sure about yourself. If you’re not sure about yourself then why would they want to do business with you? They won’t.
- The Commercial: Know what you want to say about your business before you leave your home or office to go to the event. You don’t want to be tripping over your words as you tell people why they should do business with you.
- Handing Out Business Cards: I hardly ever hand out business cards when I visit a large group. It’s not because I am cheap; I don’t want to randomly pass my cards to people and not make a personal connection. I want to meet you, shake your hand and hear about your business. Then we exchange business cards.
- It’s Not about Leads: Networking events are never about leads generation for me, at least not directly. I go to networking events to meet people and make connections. I don’t just want to know the people at the event, I want to know who they know and how we can all help each other.
- 48 hour Follow Up: Once you have made contact with people at a networking event, it is critical to follow up with them within 48 hours. Add them to a special newsletter or email list thanking them for their hospitality at the meeting or for welcoming you to their group, something professional, simple and a way to remember who you are.
As I write, I am reminded that I have some follow-up to do from a meeting I went to last week….and I have to get ready for another meeting today!