Over the past two months I’ve been attending quite a few networking groups, meetups, expos, and the like. My experiences range from great to a complete waste of time. Some were free and some carried an entry fee; but all of them left me with something to learn and something to walk away with.
Let me start by saying that I would recommend any solo-prenuer designer to try to attend as many networking engagements as you can when you’re starting out. You’ll get a chance to practice your elevator speech over and over again. If you don’t have one, you’ll quickly learn one as you introduce yourself to people every few minutes. Have a speech prepared already, the repetition will help finesse your keywords and delivery. Those of you who’ve been around for a few years, you already know that your time is important. Being strategic about which events you attend is key. Think about who in the community in terms of leaders or movers and shakers will be in attendance. Try and work your way to meeting them and making a good impression. Not just to get them to take your business card, but to find interest in what you know about a subject matter. If the conversation goes well then give them your card. Also seek out city officials and editors of your local newspapers.
You’ll pick up a lot of business cards during the event. Even during a 2 hour meetup with about 40 attending professionals, you’re set to collect about 30 new business cards. Treat each new business card as a possible lead. Quickly email them back with a short personal message the very next business day. Include something to remind them about what you may have discussed together and leave them with an open-ended request for service. For example:
“Good morning Mr. Smith. It was great to meet you last night at the Entrepreneur’s Networking Event. Especially to meet someone else who still wears penny loafers! You had some really interesting points about your products. If you ever have any questions about (design, or websites, or social media, or graphics) feel free to give me a call.”
That’s all you need to say really. Short and to the point. In my experience I hear back from 10-15% of the people I reach out to after an event. Out of those that I hear back from I’m able to convert clients or referrals out of at least 1 or 2.
The events that could be a waste of time are ones where your target clients are not obviously attending. After you’ve been to a few networking events you should be able to tell from the invite who the audience in attendance will be. Save yourself the gas and RSVP to ones based on who will attend, even if you may be at bit nervous. I’ll admit that stepping out of your comfort zone may be nerve-wracking but the more you do it the more rewarded you will be. Eventually you’ll build up a good confident vibe when entering a room, talking to new people about what you do in under a minute, and having people ask you first for YOUR business card because they recognize you’re the authority on your industry.
Have any recent experiences like this to add? Please share in the comments field below.