Business Networking Event - Your Meal Ticket To Success
The Business Networking Event is alive and strong. Despite online interactions soaking up a huge chunk of current communication streams, face to face networking is still well worth doing.
Getting an edge is always an advantage in every industry. We are all happy to jump onto the latest, or upcoming trend, if it gives another few percent on the bottom line. However, it is all too easy to forget the ‘old school’ approach that has worked for decades. As people throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, it might be worth going back and checking out what benefits we may be letting go of.
For many people, the term Business Networking Event brings back memories of break of day elevator pitches, ‘speed dating’ activities, and listening to rambling sales consultants while you desperately try to remember what you want to say when it is your turn to speak.
So, What Is Business Networking?
Networking is just what the word states – “Net” and “Work”.
Your ‘net’ is your unique set of colleagues, contacts, and comrades. Going about your day to day business
Networking in business is a method of adding contacts (and possibly colleagues) that you may eventually convert into comrades. Business networking is not really about selling your product or getting new clients. These may be a byproduct of an event, but the focus is squarely upon building relationships.
The old adage is that “people do business with people”. Trust, familiarity and authenticity go a long way to winning business from a client.
The ‘work’ aspect is applying thought, commitment, effort and following up. A good network is created, and networking succeeds, by the application of hard work. A network without work produces nothing worthwhile.
Networking is not a one-off event. Building relationships means interacting more than just the once with someone. After your networking event following up is key to continuing the relationships you have started. A quick note saying how much you enjoyed meeting, and connecting on LinkedIn is a good start
Business Networking is about forming trust and helping one another toward goals. Regularly engaging with your contacts and finding opportunities to assist them helps to strengthen the relationship and convert them to comrades.
Why a business networking lunch event may be just what you need
Many business organisations are providing lunchtime business networking events. The Institute of Directors provides regional lunches throughout the year. These events are becoming more popular, and have benefits over and above business breakfasts and evening drinks.
Lunchtime has the disadvantage of being in the middle of the working day. Once you look past the notion that you are ‘just going for a nice meal’ and that you are really investing in work, this becomes less of a difficulty.
Lunchtime has a number of significant advantages. Advantages that particularly favour people who find business networking a little more difficult.
Personal Development Opportunity
Like all networking events, business networking lunches help build your confidence. Regularly meeting people in a non-threatening environment helps you develop friendships with like-minded people.
Networking builds invaluable social skills like small talk and listening. It is all too easy to hide behind our online social networks, but actually interacting with real-life humans face to face is a dying art.
Most business people are optimistic and positive. As opposed to people on the ‘dark side’ who drag you down and make you miserable.
Leaving your comfort zone and regularly associating with ‘light side’ people can be a great morale boost. This is particularly true when you are going through difficult times in business. It is important to surround yourself with positive, uplifting people that help you to grow and thrive as a business owner and as a person. Positive people naturally exude their best attributes; these are the individuals with whom you want to associate and connect with.
You will quickly learn to communicate your business pitch as you meet a range of new people. But perhaps the most important skill is listening. People rarely really listen. Most people are listening for a space to voice their opinion.
Relationship Building Over Food Is Just Easier
As much as a business networking event is beneficial to your business, career, and even your personal life, the reality is that networking doesn’t come naturally to many people. In fact, for some, the thought of starting a conversation with a stranger incites deathly dread.
Sitting around a table eating with people moves the focus off directly interacting and onto something else. Eating also gives you some great opportunities for discussion starters. “This Butter Chicken is so creamy - have you had some?” Once the ice is broken conversation can flow more easily.
Being seated around a table gives you a fixed set of people to talk to. Limiting your interactions can be a real advantage. Having just a few people around you gives you the opportunity to have more in-depth discussions. Networking is about relationships. It is unlikely that you can make relationships that have any meaning with 50 people in an hour. Building relationships with the five or six people seated around you is much more achievable.
Making The Most Of Your Table Contacts
There will be times when those around your table are nothing remotely to do with your area of business. This is great as it allows you to gain new insights that you may not have otherwise come across. Similarly, offering helpful ideas is an excellent way to build your reputation as an innovative thinker. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of your own professional realm and end up not able to see a broader picture.
Talking to others out of your field, or with expertise in a different area, gives you insights that only come from viewing a situation with fresh eyes. This can help you see things in a new light and overcome hurdles that you might not have known how to get over otherwise.
How Do I find A Business Networking Lunch Event?
Membership of one of the big business organisations really helps as they organise a range of events. The Institute of Directors is very good at providing different kinds of events that cater to all types of businesspeople. One great strength is that they have both regional and national events. Members from one region can attend an event anywhere in the UK.
The organiser of a networking event gives you a good indication of the kinds of people you will be networking with.
The local b2b network may have people from very small to medium-sized businesses attending. Your local business chamber, IOD, or the CBI each offer a different clientele. A little research will produce a list of events across your region that fit the event you want, in the area you want, with the people you want.
The Benefits Of Networking For Your Career
There are some other reasons to attend a business networking event. One of which is to help further your own career!
Firstly, being visible and getting noticed is an essential element in building your career. Regularly attending events will help to get your face known. You can then help to build your reputation as being knowledgeable, reliable and supportive by offering useful information or tips to people who need it.
Expanding your contacts can open doors to new opportunities for business, career advancement, personal growth, or simply obtaining new knowledge. Active networking helps to keep you ‘top of mind’ when opportunities arise and also
Professional networking opens many doors in the form of career advice, lasting relationships and even landing your dream role. You never know who might be hiring for your ideal job, or know someone who is. The more people you have in your network, the more likely you are to know when those dream job opportunities pop up.
Other Useful Networking Tips
The old fashioned business card is a must for any business networking event. Some sound advice is to give out liberally and take two off each person you interact with. One card to keep yourself and one to pass on to someone who might appreciate the link.
The humble business card is the physical reminder that is left with the person you have connected with. It should include your contact information as a minimum.
Dress Appropriately And Professionally
Establish yourself as a successful person, which you can do by dressing the part. This does not mean that you need to wear expensive clothes, but do wear something a bit on the dressy side and leave the comfortable baggy pants at home. If in doubt dress up not down.
Taking selfies with everyone you meet is a big no-no. If there is a professional photographer at your event make sure you get a great photo taken of you. It is another way to get yourself noticed and seen as a regular contributor. A regular networking event I attend has done some marketing and I have managed to appear in almost every scene!
Try a business networking event yourself. Remember that a one-off attendance is unlikely to have any real impact. Commitment and tenacity really pay off.