One of the seemingly improbable outcomes of digital social networking is the increased interest in live events for building relationships to further to accomplish practical business objectives.
To do this well, while also maximizing your return on what is likely to be a significant investment, thorough preparation is essential.
This is something I’ve been working on for weeks to get ready for attending Social Media Marketing World, the worlds largest social media marketing event. I’ll have several responsibilities, including leading a small business interest group.
Am I anxious? Of course, but when I get on that airplane and look over my plan I’ll have the confidence that comes from planning for success. The following steps and ideas will help you to do the same.
#1 – Focus Your Attention on Possible Outcomes
My belief is many people think of networking as showing up, randomly interacting, and hoping something good will happen.
You have to be crystal clear about what you want so you can communicate it to others, and to recognize it when you see or hear it.
Here are possible outcomes to plan for when attending live events.
- Learning Useful ideas
- Discovering Opportunities for Partnering
- Finding a Mentor or Coach
- Forming Alliances
- Nurturing current relationships
- Connecting with Influencers
- Launching a New Product or Service
When others are clear about what you want they can more easily help you. This is why your desired business outcomes should also be listed in your LinkedIn profile.
#2 – Articulate How Your Business Can Help Others
Everyone is looking for ways to grow their business. So, if you can clearly articulate how you help other businesses, you will much more readily achieve alignment for accomplishing your goals.
This basically comes down to crafting a statement that describes two things: We do this. You get this. If you wish, you can think of this as your “elevator speech.”
To then get that conversation going, consider some of the following practices.
- Be aware – Pay attention to eye contact to know who does and doesn’t want to connect with you.
- Do your research – Knowing something specific about others always makes for interesting conversation.
- Bring a “gift” – This can be as simple as a compliment about someone’s recent blog post.
- Buy a stranger a cup of coffee – Just walk up to a friendly person in the coffee line and buy their coffee. It’s a great ice breaker.
- Think big – The best opportunities are often squandered because someone is not ready. What would you know to do if Oprah called? That’s the idea.
#3 – Increase the Probability of Favorable Outcomes
One of my habits at live events is writing out my daily schedule, starting with when I arise, meditate, exercise, have breakfast, etc. I used to think this was an odd practice until recently discovering others do this to budget their time and maximize potential opportunities.
A powerful tip for making the most of of live networking is showing up early for the event, as well as every day during the event. Go-getters tend to show up early, making this a great time to make invaluable connections.
In addition to being where you expect others to be, consider also being where it is easier to make connections, such as in the hallways while educational sessions are going on. When you avoid the crowds you can often have more relaxed and personal conversations.
Bonus: Debrief Throughout the Event
An invaluable practice for avoiding networking overwhelm is to digest everything on a daily basis. This captures what is relevant and builds your plan for what’s next. Here are some ideas for doing this well.
- Always carry a notepad – always.
- Use an App to quickly grab contact information.
- Connect with everyone on LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter
- Schedule tweets for the following week to reconnect
- Make a list of promises and next actions
When you digest live events on a daily basis you are effectively doing your homework before going home. This is a trick I learned back in grade school so that I could get right down to having fun when I got home!
Live events are fun, but even better is being ready to enhance your business when you return with the help of your new relationships and ideas that give you a fresh perspective for accomplishing your business goals.
About the Author: Jeff Korhan, MBA, is the author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business – (Wiley 2013)