WATCH THIS SPACE!
Setting up Liz Taylor Consultancy has been a whirlwind of new events, people and amazing opportunities. I am having a fabulous time doing something that I am truly passionate about. And now to the next chapter in this journey; my blog. I’ll be using this page to bring you my latest news, connections, business wins and progress. And I have much to share … with incredibly exciting news to be announced very soon. As they say, watch this space! I’ll also be bringing you the insider knowledge and my own brand of ‘Liz Taylor’ wisdom; acquired over my 30-year career (please don’t attempt the maths) am beginning by writing about something that I am asked about a lot: how to get the most out of a networking event.
As a businesswoman I’ve travelled the world, mingled with megastars to royalty and navigated almost every problem you could imagine. It’s fair to say I’ve been around the ‘business’ block a few times. That’s why I want to use this blog to share my experiences, drive-forward best practise and inspire and empower women (and men) who are embarking on their own journey. Whether that be in the events sector or starting out on their own adventure. Here goes!
Create a network
The first topic is very dear to my heart – how to get the most out of a networking event. I always say that networking has been the key to my success. Whether it’s on a plane, at a designated networking event, or even at one of my own events. I use any and every opportunity to build up my contacts.
Those who’ve met me in person will know, I’ve never been a shrinking violet. If I’m at a networking event (or where-ever I am), I make it my mission to remember everybody’s name and background before I leave. Usually with a fist full of business cards. I understand that, for some people, this doesn’t come naturally. So here are some tips on how to get the most out of a networking event that I’ve picked up along the way.
How to be prepared for networking
As with most business skills, preparation is your secret weapon for getting the most out of a networking event. My first tip is to always contact the event organiser beforehand to find out which delegates will be attending. They may not give you full names and contact details, but at the very least you should get an indication of the companies that are being represented and job titles.
Before I attend a networking event, I use this delegates list to create my own ‘hit list’. The top five or ten contacts that I absolutely must meet. It’s a technique that will give you real focus and limit your time stuck in conversations that aren’t useful. Sounds ruthless but remember, you’re here to further your business. Making friends is secondary and you can be focused without being rude.
Prepare your pitch
Speaking of which, another key preparation for a networking event is to have your conversation ‘in’ and ‘out’ ready. Come armed with some conversation openers. And your 30 second elevator pitch rehearsed, ready to trip off the tongue. If you’ve done your research, you can throw in a compliment when you meet people. Such as ‘I really love your business idea, please tell me more about how you started out’. Or ‘I’ve heard great things about your company, tell me more about what you do.’ What an opener – and who doesn’t love to be complimented?
More importantly, have your escape route planned. We’ve all been there, stuck in a polite, even interesting, but ultimately fruitless conversation at a networking event. Usually when the contact who could really drive your business forward is just a few feet away. Here, having a means to leave the conversation is your secret weapon. Try phrases such as ‘I have taken up lots of your time and I am sure you want to meet other people, let me call you and we can carry on our conversation over coffee’. Or ‘It’s been lovely to meet you. I am keen to speak to a couple of other guests whilst I have them in the room, so I will let you go but will drop you a LinkedIn message to catch up again.’ They seem to give me an ‘out’ and chance to move on to talk with other people.
How to overcome nerves when networking
Nerves at a networking event are often a big factor in why people fail to achieve their objectives. Good networking takes practise, so if you’re nervous, try attending some smaller networking events and build up your technique. A practical tip is to hold your drink in your left hand so that your right hand is free to shake – this saves any awkward juggling, which can get the conversation off on the wrong foot. And always avoid the food if you can!
In overcoming nerves at a networking event, there’s a lot to be taken from the phrase ‘fake it before you make it’. Try to front out your nerves with confident body language. Have a firm handshake, a confident stance and always look people in the eye as you greet them. Be ready with a way to spark conversation on their side such as saying: ‘tell me a bit more about what you do’. This shifts the focus to them and gives you chance to get rid of your nervous energy. Before you know it, you’ll be in the flow of conversation and your initial nerves will be gone.
How to follow up after a networking event
When you’ve worked that room, the most important part of getting the most out of a networking event is the follow up. Who’s guilty of taking a stack of business cards, shoving them in a drawer and they never see the light of day again? Following up is essential to successful networking. I usually do it as soon as I get back to the office and before I start ANYTHING else.
Technology can help – if you have LinkedIn app use this instead of business cards, then you are connected in real time. Send a message while you’re still with the person if that helps to strike up that all important follow up conversation. If you’re confident enough you can really show off your business savvy by walking people through the Bluetooth ‘nearby contacts’ function. It allows everyone in the room to instantly connect, with the bonus that you’ll be remembered as the person who showed them how it’s done.
Network anywhere with anyone
I’ve saved the best tip for how to get the most out of a networking event for last. I’ll let you into a little secret. I don’t attend that many networking events anymore. Why? Because I use everything I do and everywhere I go is an opportunity to build contacts. Think about your ideal customer, then go out and find them. For example, if I need to catch a flight, I always upgrade to business class. My customers are in the business lounge not in Pret a Manger. I use the two hours before I board a plane to make sure everyone in that room knows who I am. And because it’s not a designated networking opportunity, it’s usually a much more relaxed way of getting to know people. Upgrade your rail ticket to first class. Then sit at a table (not a seat for two) and talk to the people around you. You will be surprised how much business I have generated on the rail journey from Manchester to London!
So, just a few of my top tips on how to get the most out of a networking event. Please keep an eye out on the Liz Taylor Consultancy blog for more tips and tricks for building a successful business. And if there’s a particular topic you’d like us to cover, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.