Updated: Oct 5
I have a confession to make: I love going to networking events. Really, I do. But it wasn’t always that way for me. I used to dread them and you probably know why. You show up and everyone is rushing around trying to talk to everyone, shoving business cards in your hands, and you’re stuck having the same conversation 300 times, “So, what do you do?”
At the end of the night, you’re exhausted, sitting there looking at a stack of cards wondering when you’re going to find the time to follow up with everyone. Let’s be honest – that’s not very much fun. And if you’re an introvert like me, this kind of experience isn’t worth the time it’s going to take to recover from the energy suck.
Here’s the good news, my friend. It doesn’t have to be that way. In my 20 years of going to network events and tradeshows, I’ve learn a few tricks that can turn this all around. Read on to learn three simple ways to actually grow your business through networking events.
Talk about who you are not what you do. Share your business in the context of how it is an expression of your interests and passions rather than letting your profession define you. As Simon Sinek teaches, start with your “why” and lead with that. People are more likely to resonate with your purpose than with your product or service. Your “why” probably solves a problem too, and if it’s their problem, they’re going to naturally be curious and want to learn more. Think about how much easier it is to sell something when the client is already interested and coming to you.
You can also find ways to highlight the unlikely similarities between you and your ideal clients. For example, although I’m a business and life coach in Denver, my clients tend to be dog lovers so I might mention that I’m obsessed with my two sweet dogs as part of an introduction or elevator pitch. Trust me, it’s much easier to bond and build a relationship over puppy pics than trying to (not so) covertly pitch my services to everyone in the room.
Which brings me to my next point: Stop selling at these events. Period. Unless you’ve got a tabletop set up with product to sell, the purpose of networking events is to meet people in your community and make connections. It’s not all about you and what you’re selling. When you go into an event like this with the sole intention of finding customers, you forget to genuinely connect with the human in front of you.
Pause to consider this: most people in that room will not become your client or customer. Stop trying to find out if they’re one of the few who will be and you’ll actually increase your odds of converting them later. And even if they are the holy grail of customers, you’re not there to make a deal in that moment. Set the sell aside and schedule separate time for that conversation. In the meantime, just enjoy your interactions and focus on your company.
Finally, let’s revisit the idea of your intention for being there. Determine and set your intention before you arrive. This single concept has the power to completely change the game, especially for you fellow introverts. If you’re a coach, healer, or creative entrepreneur, you’re probably more concerned about giving incredible service to one person at a time (i.e. quality over quantity), especially when you’re in the process of bringing on a new customer. Think about what you want to do in your time at this event other than finding new clients. Is it to meet 1 or 2 quality leads? Is it to simply meet more people in your community or industry? Is it to be seen as a core member of this specific group? Whatever it is, be clear and let that guide you during the event.
My intention - which comes as a grounding practice and mini-meditation in my car before I walk in the door, by the way - is to meet only the people I am divinely meant to know. This allows me to cut out the noise and not be in a rush. I can stay open and let go of any pressure to talk to every single person in the room or to even find out if they’re client material. I will tell you that this is incredibly effective and you will be shocked at how much easier it is to find new clients using this single approach. By leaning in to the power of intention, you can trust that there is a purpose for every interaction. The fun part is letting the purpose unfold over time.
Give these tips a try next time you go to a networking event and let me know how they work for you.
Have a great tip to share? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment and let me know how you successfully leverage networking events to grow your business.
Want to join a community of fellow bosses who get what it's like to navigate the unique challenges of entrepreneurship? Join me in my FREE Facebook group, Streamlined Success for the Service-Based Entrepreneur.