When writing this I was reminded of a comedy skit from The Kids in the Hall - Businessmen Networking describing networking as “Businessmen meeting other businessmen for the purpose of meeting at a later date.” Although it may be serve that purpose, there are a few other benefits to networking. I’ve always found ‘networking events’ are valuable on many levels for advisors, more than just the obvious one of business development. Here are four tips to help you make the most of your next networking event experience:
Do your homework: Learn about organization’s mission, goals and community. For me, events that are focused on a very specific niche tend to provoke deeper insights, conversations, and connections. My preference has always been quality over quantity. Determine what your priority is and find the event that works best for you. If there is an online registration attendee list, see who’ll be attending and make it a point to introduce yourself to those people that make sense for you to better know, preferably in advance of the event date.
Pay it Forward: The old adage “it’s better to give than receive” really applies here. I’ve always noticed that the best networkers are those who have a philosophy of ‘What’s in it for you (who they’re meeting)” rather than ‘What’s in it for me (themselves)”. This can be as easy as asking the simple question “How can I help you?” Help can take the form of a referral that might be helpful, a link to an article that might be of interest, or extending an invitation to another networking meeting that would benefit them. Building a network and relationships take time and helping others is a very genuine way to stay connected so as an opportunity arises you’ll be top of mind.
It’s all in the follow-up: So what do we do after a networking event is over? Collect a bunch of cards, send emails saying it was nice to meet and tell them all about yourself, or maybe send a LinkedIn invitations to add to your growing list of connections. I suggest taking the next step, learn about their experience background and take the initiative to schedule an introductory call or meeting. This may seem obvious, but all too often we take for granted how easy it is to make a connection and move on to the next one. A simple 15 minute call may make a more meaningful connection and you may be surprised what you in common.
Stay on Course: The best networkers are those who make a concerted effort to do more than ‘just show up’. My advice is to find a group that you find most comfortable and then be “All-In”. Show up early, stay late, and attend events frequently and consistently. In addition, networking events are often times run by professionals who volunteer their time and efforts to running the event. The opportunities usually include areas such as promotion, logistics, and membership. Determine where your expertise or experience may benefit the group and see how you can contributor. Joining a committee is especially good for introverts to be more involved in a way that most comfortable for them. Darren Dahl, freelance contributor, The New York Times explains “Don't let your naturally quiet nature stop you from enjoying the benefits of networking. These tips will soon have you mingling like a pro.”
Networking events are like any other marketing activity for financial advisors, they work best when you ‘plan your work’ and then ’work your plan’.