Not Every Event Is A Networking Event

It is important to your business persona – to how people react and interact with you – to understand that not every event is held to enable you to network.  Every event may provide an opportunity to network, but that doesn’t make it a networking event or an appropriate place to pitch your services, products, or business.

Many events are held for the purpose of providing information, educating attendees, or other business purposes.  The event’s purpose, venue, and format are tailored to the “why” of the event – not to making sure others have an opportunity to learn about you and your business, or for you to learn about the other attendees.

Because we are so intent on marketing our businesses (or ourselves), we Sometimes miss the real opportunities to make connections with the very people who could become clients, referral sources, or friends.  By pushing forward with our agenda at each and every venue, we miss the signals that say whether or not this is an appropriate behavior.

Social settings, especially those events that are a result of a business relationship or are a part of another business’ business, are fantastic opportunities to initiate relationships.  What they are not are forums for prospecting.  You will get questions about “what you do”, “how you know so and so”, and many others.  Making appropriate replies which enable you to have a conversation and create an opportunity to follow-up isn’t the same as going into an elevator pitch, a full-blown marketing discussion, or an involved explanation of your technology and the investment opportunity.

You may have opportunities in social, educational, or other forums to connect with someone you wouldn’t normally have access to.  Don’t blow it by trying to make a sale, act as if you have a connection, that you are “entitled” to ask for something, or generally impose on the other person.  When you do, you become a face in the crowd, one more person wanting something.  Instead stand out from the crowd by being a true professional and understanding the difference in a “social” setting and others in which it is appropriate to talk shop.

From experience, more doors are opened for you and to you when you aren’t intent on the “sale” and instead are looking to START building a relationship.  Don’t presume in social settings (or others).  Presumption is a close relation to what happens when you “assume” (ass-u-me).

Don’t become someone whom people don’t invite to “business socials.”  Don’t be someone to avoid in social settings.  Opportunity knocks at these events.  Don’t get the door slammed shut by moving too far, too fast.

Keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Understand the purpose of the event
  • Develop a strategy and a script which clearly enables you to talk about what you do, but doesn’t go over the line into a sales pitch
  • Develop a practice of focusing on establishing common ground
  • Hone your “its about you” conversational skills
  • Learn how to open the door to a true business meeting at a later date and time
  • Get permission to include the other person in another event or forum where you can turn the spotlight on what you have to offer
  • Be prepared to give assistance and do something for the other person BEFORE you ask for their assistance
  • Learn to recognize the signs that you need to move on
  • Do draw others into the conversation
  • Eliminate the edge of the group hover – either get into the group or conversation with courtesy or step away
  • Look for the person standing in isolation, especially if you aren’t comfortable in social settings – chances are that loner is even more uncomfortable and uncertain than you are
  • Do for others what you would like done for you – know someone in the group that you can give a “testimonial” to – speak well of others and they will open doors
  • Watch and learn – at every event you will see someone with a PhD in working the crowd and connecting, take note of what they do and don’t do
  • Be sure you don’t become a stalker – understand that not everyone will be willing to welcome you into their circle or meet with you when you follow-up
  • Understand that sometimes people will use “call me” as a way to escape – always follow-up when you get a “call me” response – once or twice – any more than that and you often step over the line  from “determined” to “stalker” – know the line and don’t cross it

Because “networking” has become so predominant in our marketing and business development, we often lose sight or haven’t learned the etiquette of networking.  Often the person who stands out in the minds of those you want to do business is the one who portrays the confidence of being able to make a connection and keep business in its place – a later time and place that is.

Whether your are looking for a new career opportunity, strategic alliance, investors, or customers, learn to make a distinction between events where you have an opportunity to network and networking events.  Also, learn to draw the line between opportunities to connect on a social/personal level which can open more doors than a single “pitch” at an inappropriate moment.  Getting things right, understanding the etiquette of the “business” social, will enable you to go farther than you realize.

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