Networking – the next step

In this article, we looked at a range of ideas about using networking as a joined-up part of your business marketing. An underlying theme was that it takes time to build networking relationships. It is better to have 3 or4 in-depth conversations rather than rushing round to as many people as possible telling them what you do and swapping business cards. They won’t appreciate it and it probably won’t help your business grow – and isn’t that what it is all about?

It might make sense to have 3 or 4 good, engaging conversations during a typical networking session but there might be 20, 30 or even more people in the room.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could speak to everyone?

In our networking-in-a-joined-up-marketing-world article, we have already talked about the Hit and Run approach and how it is best avoided. So what should you do if you want to have a wider impact?

It’s simple. Take the floor and speak to everyone at once.

Speaking to everyone – even if you only get a short time – can be a great way to make an impression and build awareness of you and your business. It is also a great springboard to future one to one conversations. If someone feels they know a bit about you they are more willing to talk with you.

Taking the floor

There are numerous different formats for business networking and most include one or more opportunities to take to the floor. It is rare that a networking session doesn’t include at least one of th following:

The 60 Seconds Slot

In small, local networking groups, it may be that the opening activity is to go around everyone in the room, giving each person a minute to introduce themselves. This is practical in a small group but if you network there regularly, you may well get a chance to speak with most people you don’t know anyway.

It is in the bigger group where the 60 Seconds gets more interesting. A common routine is to invite everyone who wants a 60 Seconds slot to put their business card ‘into the hat’ at the start of the event. There is then a random draw of 5 or 10 cards and these people get the opportunity to address the whole audience.

You should always put your card in the hat  

Not only should you always be in the hat (you won’t get picked every time!), it is also worth preparing what you are going to saying your 60 seconds. Many groups are quite strict on the timing and it’d be a real shame if you didn’t get to your main point before the bell goes.

On the subject of preparation and what to say, please read on below. Just because you have the floor for a minute doesn’t mean your audience will listen to you. They need to be engaged.

Speaker Slot

As well as the 60 Seconds slots, most networking groups have one or two main speakers. Somebody has to do it so why not you? As a main speaker, you are likely to get longer (10-15 minutes is popular) and may even have the chance to use slides to illustrate your words.

Getting a speaker slot is often no more difficult than approaching the organisers and asking! It normally makes sense to avoid asking on your first visit! Attend a few sessions, get to know a few people (especially the organisers) and then ask. It’s amazing how many people don’t ever ask so it is likely your offer will be gratefully accepted. HOWEVER, it is even more important as a main speaker to plan what you are going to say and do your best to engage your audience. Succeed, and you can build a reputation as a good speaker. Future opportunities to ‘take the floor’ will get easier. Fail and you may start to find that the speaker slots are all ‘already taken’.

Sponsorship

Some of the bigger (more professional?) networking groups offer the opportunity to sponsor their sessions. Sponsorship is a way to ‘buy’ a speaker slot. This may not be as idealistic as the previous 2 approaches (or as long as a main speaker slot) but if a networking group is prestigious and the audience is particularly well aligned with your target market, sponsorship may be worth considering. Let’s face it, if the organisers can get people to pay for an opportunity to speak, why would they give it away!?

Even if you are paying, don’t think you have carte blanche to push your business in a 10-minute sales pitch. Planning your presentation is vital.

What to say – be relevant

OK you have the floor. They are all listening to you. Now is your chance to sell.

Err – NO!

Speaking at a networking event should not be a sales pitch.

It may not even be enough to talk about the things you do – even if you think they are interesting. I was recently at a local networking meeting with around 30 local businesses, all SMEs. The main speaker spent 15 minutes telling us all about the software his company was developing to help major organisations reduce energy bills. He openly admitted that they were only interested in working with companies who had annual energy bills in the millions. I found his talk kind of interesting from a technical point of view but I didn’t really understand why he was there? There seemed to be no ‘business fit’ with his audience.

First and foremost, your presentation should be engaging, interesting and relevant to your listeners. The clever bit is to work your marketing message into your interesting presentation so that by the time you finish, people will be engaged with you and also see how what you do might be of benefit to them. Achieve this and you don’t need to sell. People will start to want to talk to you to find out more. Maybe not all of them and maybe not straight away but the seed is sown.

Now all you need to do is keep networking and stick to your engaging principles. Success will follow….

Filed under: News

About David Wright

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Every business has a brand. Building yours can be the best way of adding sustained value to your business. A strong brand also builds market confidence and creates a great platform from which to develop sustainable business opportunities.

I combine professional marketing qualifications and experience with a solid understanding of real business to discuss and advise on building your business brand using effective marketing communication in a down-to-earth, no jargon way.

As well as discussing plans and strategies I am keen to 'get my hands dirty' and work with clients to make sure things happen!

  • Understanding you, your business, and what you want to achieve
  • Helping you choose the right tools for a practical marketing communications plan
  • Working with you to make sure things happen - and keep happening

My business goals are to achieve effective, long term relationships with clients, to deliver real benefit and to help clients drive their business forward.

Specialities:

  • Practical, joined-up marketing communication.
  • Professional, internet focussed business marketing.
  • Relevant content creation
  • WordPress training – take control of your website
I work on clarifying your goals then developing and implementing practical marketing to help you achieve them.

Extensive understanding on the internet and web marketing enables me to tap into highly cost-effective tools to achieve effective, sustainable marketing at realistic budgets.

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