How to Network at Business Events

2014-01-03 10.56.59 I’m at the New Media Expo event in Las Vegas, and my primary mission here is to help more people’s businesses succeed by introducing them to Owner magazine. To accomplish this goal, I’ve decided to help people here learn a better way to network at business events. Even if you’re not here, I want you to have the same chance to improve your business networking efforts.

How to Network At Business Events

Have Two Missions in Mind – There should be two important missions sharing space in your brain: 1.) How do I help other people succeed? and 2.) How do I grow my business? If you’re coming to the event without both sides of this equation, you’ll either be so selfless that you won’t get a great return for your time, or you’ll be so selfish that people will never want to see you at an event again. Be both. Help others. Help yourself. WITHOUT that whole “quid pro quo” expectation of “if I help you, I expect help” back.

The person you help shouldn’t usually be the person you seek help from. They’re two different souls, in most cases.

When Helping Others – ask what challenges they face in the coming months, or similarly what’s really got them struggling, and try not to be thinking “I sell the solution to this problem.” Instead, think openly about “I really want to help this person.” Secondarily, or as an alternative question, ask the person “who would it benefit you to know, or what type of person would it benefit you to know to grow your business?” Make your network available to them.

When Asking For Help – ask people for their opinion or advice on a very specific challenge. Don’t ask “how can I grow my revenue.” Ask, “If you ran a tee shirt business like mine, and you wanted ways to expand sales beyond just ‘new designs,’ what would your brainstorm look like?” Or something. The point is to ask a specific question. Right now, I need more people to want to subscribe to Owner, so I might ask people what would make it worth it for them to share Owner with their community or list.

The Mechanics of Networking

Have plenty of business cards. Yes, people still use business cards. Here’s mine:

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But the trick isn’t handing out your cards. The trick is getting their card. Then, you have the opportunity to drop them a line. You win the game by collecting cards, not handing out yours. And only then, if there’s real business to transact.

Do NOT ADD PEOPLE TO YOUR STUPID NEWSLETTER!!! – Once you get someone’s business card, do NOT just dump them into your newsletter list. This is a jerk move, and while it legally doesn’t violate the Canned SPAM law, it’s really frustrating and not a great first contact move.

Make eye contact with the person you’re talking with, and only with them. Never surf the room for the next person you hope to meet. It’s not cool. Ever.

Include people when you can. If someone nearby looks a bit shy but might want to be part of the conversation, and if the conversation isn’t private, open the circle. Let them in. I’ve met hundreds upon hundreds of amazing people this way.

Coffee meetings are faster than meal meetings. If you’re starved for time, don’t say yes to lunch or dinner. Maybe drinks, but definitely coffee.

Meals of more than 12 or so people are logistically tricky at events. I’ve never had this turn out well. Sure, great people, blah blah blah, but it takes like nine times longer to be seated, four times longer to eat, and you only get to talk with two or so people unless you speed-date yourself around the table a bit. Avoid this (I do).

Business is Built On Relationships

Never worry about making small talk and learning about people. Small talk is often the big talk. If you dive right into business, most times, the other person will feel weirded out. Other countries besides America lose their minds with how get-to-the-point-ish Americans can be, by the way.

Keep meetings brief. The other person might have somewhere to go. Don’t RUSH, but also don’t move in with the person.

Be who you really are. It’ll come out eventually. You might as well just be you to start with.

EXCEPT, but a little more outgoing than normal, even if you’re a bit shy.

My Promise to You

If you come up to me at this event or another event and tell me that you read this piece on networking at business events, I’ll tell you three secret “tricks” that will help you even more. Deal?

I look forward to meeting as many people as possible at this event and future events. And hey, if you haven’t already, would you consider signing up to get Owner magazine? It’s free. It would tickle me pink. :)


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