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In an age of social media and online meetings, face-to-face networking opportunities seem to have faded in popularity. Some find networking groups to lack relevance to their intended purpose for joining networking groups. However, if you coordinate networking events for a specific group, these three keys will help you and your attendees find rewards that will pay big dividends.
1. Get involved – Too often attendees at events show up expecting that the event will simply magically unfold and leads will simply fall in their lap. After the event is over, they go home, empty their pocket or purse of businesses cards of new contacts they will likely not call. As a coordinator get your attendees engaged by who serving as greeters or matchmakers because when attending your networking events they will tend to stay more positive about the group and retain a higher engagement in the activity.
2. Be present – Many groups provide door prizes for their event generated from all their attendees who hope to promote their specific organization. By bringing a door prize to the event, attendees show a higher commitment to the group. As a result, providing a door prize, especially something useful or unusual, opens the door for deeper conversations.
In those conversations, be present. Put away your cell phone, take your blue tooth receiver out of your ear and immerse yourself into the environment. Nothing is worse than speaking to someone only to have them raise the finger for you to “hold on a sec” while they answer a phone call. It’s important not to be overly sensitive to this dilemma, however for those who embrace this habit, you may be creating an image of yourself that may be contrary to who you are professionally. Remember, there are many personality types in the world of networking and several people you meet will have little or no tolerance for being put hold in this way.
3. Create a plan – Do you sit down and list the types of contacts you wish to make at an event? In attending chambers, BNI’s or other group meetings, putting a list of types of contacts you want to make can help make the event even more successful and yield better results. Let’s face it, some of us network because it’s expected of us, yet all the while not really understanding what good networking does for us. So, create a plan. Did you meet someone last time you’d like to get to know better? Did you lose a business card of someone who might be able to give you business or partner with you on a project? Do you know which attendees can open doors for you to discuss viable business opportunities for you? Are you itching to introduce a colleague to another associate that might share common interests or business needs? Is there someone I’d like to introduce to another attendee? I’m sure you can identify at least three other types of leads you need or want to meet.
Remember, effective networking and networking do not necessarily equal each other. When you come from an event, ask yourself if it was a waste of your time or, did you waste an opportunity? Business opportunities often occur when attendees engage themselves in positive networking opportunities within the organization, then stay engaged and plan out their expectations. When those expectations go unfulfilled, speak with the organizer to discuss the shortfalls of the group. Again, being involved in the constructive criticism aspect of the group shows your leadership, vision and desire to see the group successful and credible. A little constructive feedback may be just what the group needs to keep networking activities positive, upbeat and bearing fruit.