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You're at a Networking Event. Now What?

Motor City Connect returned to PatchWork Collective this week and brought with them some great tips on what to do at a networking event. Take advantage of this advice to turn your next coffee connection or meet-and-greet into great new referrals.

Motor City Connect Returns to PatchWork Collective

Motor City Connect is one of the most popular business networking meetups in Metro Detroit. With the leadership of Terry Bean, this group seeks to connect business owners and entrepreneurs with the people who will make their companies great. At PatchWork Collective, we have the same mission. We love helping our members take their businesses to the next level through referrals and business development opportunities. That’s why we love having Motor City Connect visit for their monthly meetings.

But showing up at a networking event is only the first step. Once you are there, you need to know what to do, who to talk to, and most importantly, what to say.

Say More Than Hello at a Networking Event

When I joined in to yesterday’s networking event, I saw one gentleman sitting to the side, jotting notes to himself. I went over and said hello, and we chatted for a minute. Then he thanked me for coming over and went back to his writing. The gentleman in question certainly got something from being at a networking event. But was he getting everything he could? No. As it turned out, the rest of the meeting was a primer on just what he could have been doing with his time.

Build Each Other Up With Introductions

Making the most of your networking event isn’t just for when you show up the first time. It’s also about welcoming that newcomer and introducing them to the other members in your group. Walking into a new group you don’t know is hard. If your guest doesn’t feel welcome, they probably won’t be coming back. As a regular member of the networking group, you can help the network expand by introducing them to the people in the group they simply must know.

This is also a great opportunity to practice building each other up for when you pass referrals. Take the initiative and tell your guest who each member you introduce them to is, and what they do within the group. With the member right there, you can practice your pitch, knowing they’ll step in if you say something wrong.

But what if you don’t know enough about a person to introduce them?

Ask Engaging Questions

After last month’s networking event, I wrote about how to avoid the Pokemon style of networking — where you collect cards and not connections. If you want to build relationships with referral partners that will last after the meeting is over, you need to make a connection and make people realize that you care. This month, Motor City Connect helped its members figure out just how to do that with some great engaging questions:

  • Tell me about your most unique client.
  • What was the proudest moment in your career?
  • Who is your ideal client? Why?
  • What is your greatest achievement?
  • How did you get into your field?
  • What do you like most about what you do?
  • What is a resource you’re looking for to build your business?

All these engaging questions help the people you are networking with convey their value — what makes them special or different from their competition. They also inspire stories. And let’s face it, stories are easier to remember than names. By asking engaging questions and listening to the answers, you’ll have a better chance of connecting with the people you talk to in a lasting way. (You can always look back on their business card later if you forget their name.)

Find the Go-Getters and Get to Know Them

There are some people in every networking group who just get it. They seem to know everyone, remember what they do, and pass happily between groups with a smile. If you’re new to networking or are just getting into a group, you probably feel a little jealous of them.

Don’t!

Instead, get to know them. If they already have connections to everyone in the group, that means you introducing yourself adds value to their meeting. Remember, everyone is here for the same reason: to meet new people that can help build their business. And guess what? You are a new person. So say hi, ask engaging questions, and get to know them. Then you can flatter them by asking:

“Hey, you seem to know everyone here. Who do I need to meet?”

Follow Up Right Away

The worst way to attend a networking event is to schedule it right up against another meeting. Instead, give yourself a block of time to process what you have heard and follow up on the leads you received. Reach out to them on LinkedIn, send them an email invitation to coffee, or even *gasp* pick up the phone and call them.

This is where I’m actually going to disagree with our Motor City Connect presenter. He emphasized the importance of a phone call over an email or LinkedIn contact. I’ll tell you, it depends on who you are contacting. In some industries (and some generations), phone calls are golden. They cut through the form emails and make it easier to schedule face-to-face meetings. For others, they can be inconvenient, or even rude. Younger generations tend to see unanticipated phone calls as interruptions to their work and may even screen their calls. Many prefer to work through email or text and may use scheduler apps to handle their calendars. The best thing to do is to ask what is the best way to reach each person you network with to follow up. Then you can adapt your strategy to suit their way of working.

Network With Our Coworking Community

Even if you missed this month’s Motor City Connect, you can always connect with the PatchWork Collective coworking community. Drop in for a day of work, or sign up to get updates about upcoming networking events, classes, and more through our email newsletter. You can even come work for free at our monthly Free Work Friday on the first Friday of every month. See you there!

Post Author: PatchWork