If you have attended a networking function you are one of the many “networking zombies” who wander around handing out and collecting business cards. Everyone is there to get business, but it is highly unlikely that a deal can be made at a networking function.
Most people in attendance don’t know you well enough to conduct business with you. I keep mentioning the need for a trust relationship before a “deal” can be made. When have you had a chance to build that trust relationship at a typical networking function? People need to know you, trust you and like you before they refer someone to you or give you their own business.
How would you like to be the person that everyone knows at a networking function? Is it possible to be known by the participants before they get there or even have a trust relationship started before you even meet them?
I have found that all networking function have a host or sponsor, the person that welcomes you when you arrive and perhaps introduces you to other people. The person whose name is marketed as the host for an event gains a great degree of credibility and respect. As a participant you wander around the room, perhaps a little nervous about making a move to meet someone. As a host, you are in charge, you know exactly what is going to happen; participants come to you to ask for information or help. Helping someone is one of the major traits of a “master networker.”
As a host you are not expecting to make a lot of “deals”. Your function is to meet the participants and decide who you would like to build a relationship with at some future time. As a host you helped them feel at ease at the networking event, and they will remember you because of that willingness to help.
A successful networking event has to be structured. Success it not measured by the number of people in attendance but by the benefits that the participants received because of your efforts. A structured networking session with 20 participants can be much more effective than having 200 people in attendance.
Hosting a networking session is easy and very inexpensive. There are many places to hold such an event at no cost to the host. I allow my strategic alliances to benefit by providing the location and necessary “nibbles”. One rule I ask my clients to follow is not to have alcohol available; networking is a business function not a social function. Together with my clients we have developed a variety of on-going networking sessions where my client is the host. Yes, the participants benefit because we offer structure, but my client is always the major benefit recipient.
Listening requires giving up our favorite human pastime- involvement in ourselves and our own self-interest. Sonya Hamlin
Developing and hosting networking events is a part of the marketing services we offer our clients.