Between balancing work and your personal life, you have a lot on your plate. Sometimes it’s hard to justify attending networking events after work when there are still so many other items on your to-do list. Call me crazy, but if I am going to spend time on something, I want to know what my return on investment is.
When it comes to networking, there are several ways it can pay off for you. Some of the benefits you can expect to see when you network include:
- Generating new business leads
- Gaining visibility within your industry
- Making you a potential resource for others
- Opening you to new ideas and perspectives
- Building a strong support network
- Giving you access to powerful people in your field
- Improving your social skills and confidence
- Keeping you in the know
- Cultivating new friendships
- Strengthening existing relationships
But how do you get to these outcomes? In networking, the secret to gleaning a return on your investment is having more than one objective for whom you would like to meet. If you go into an event looking only for a certain type of connection or conversation, you are potentially closing yourself off to other opportunities. But if you keep connections in mind beyond just prospective clients, you can still open the door to some great people, partnerships, and opportunities. That sounds like successful networking to me!
To help you set your networking goals before you begin passing out business cards, we have pinpointed five connections you should be on the lookout for when attending an event.
Although this is the most obvious connection to look for, it also comes with the most rewarding outcome. An industry event is a great place to start a conversation with a possible client. Taking the time to mingle means new faces, new insights, and the potential for new leads.
These leads, of course, can be cultivated into a new income stream for your business. Plus, if you work in sales or receive commission-based incentives, bringing in new business can mean more money in your pocket from the referral or related sale—on top of the benefits it will bring the company as a whole.
No matter what you do for a living, a prospective new client is always a major win!
If you have ever been involved in the interviewing process for possible new-hires, you know it can be quite an undertaking. Reviewing resumes from a group of job seekers can be exhausting and time-consuming. Cover letters can start to sound redundant and templated after a while. It’s incredibly hard to gauge the type of person an applicant is by how they present themselves on paper or social media.
Even someone with a great skill set and beautiful resume can end up falling way short when it comes to meshing with your company’s culture or business goals. At the end of the day, you really don’t know who is going to walk in the door for an interview. Even if you have had a conversation with the candidate by phone or e-mail, the way they present themselves in person could be completely different than what you hoped for. That is where networking events can be useful.
When you attend any kind of industry event—whether it is a mixer, workshop, or something else—it almost guarantees that you will connect with some like-minded individuals. The people you encounter are there because it matters to them, and there is a good chance they share some of your interests and passions.
This is the perfect opportunity for recruiters to meet some quality talent. Without the formality and pressure of an interview, people tend to talk more openly and naturally. So you get to see more of their personality while you learn about their skill set. Even if you are not necessarily hiring at the time, it will help you keep an eye out for exceptional professionals (or help you realize where you might need some fresh contributions).
Freelancers frequent networking events and can be a great asset to your business. The best part of working with freelancers is the bandwidth they add to the full-time team.
When you are pressed for time or have a project that could use some extra expertise, freelance partners can be a worthwhile asset. While hiring a full-time employee is a fixed cost, a freelancer is a variable cost and one that comes with significantly lower overhead. Plus, hiring freelancers brings along fresh perspectives and can lead to lasting relationships that benefit everyone involved.
This is actually a strategy we like to employ ourselves. When I attend networking events, I am always on the lookout for great copywriters, graphic designers, and videographers. When we are in a crunch, our list of freelance contacts brings some life-saving relief to our workload. Plus, the benefit of meeting them in person provides a clearer look at who they are as professionals. This leads to more confidence in their skill sets than if we brought on a total stranger to assist. Mix in the fact that their help results in timely deliveries and happy clients, and there is no denying the value of freelance support when you need it.
Networking events open you up to all kinds of new contacts with all different areas of expertise. Chances are you will meet some pretty dynamic professionals, including seasoned vets who bring wisdom that comes only from experience and industry-shakers who are challenging the norm with new strategies and perspectives. Find someone’s insights particularly compelling? Then they have the potential to be an influential guest speaker for your team.
Having guest speakers come in and share their expertise on business, finance, investing (and more!) is always going to add value for your employees. Plus, whether they volunteer to guest speak or you pay them for their time, you are adding a new resource to your personal network by engaging with them. Getting phone numbers or email addresses for exciting guests could lead to other great opportunities in the future.
Connections in Your Industry
This may be the easiest connection to make, but it is certainly one that should not be overlooked. Our interconnected society makes the business community feel smaller than you might think. I’ve learned that you never know who you might meet or run into – and you never know when these connections might come in handy.
Whether you may need it for a good reason or a bad one, a great support network is an invaluable tool in your business arsenal. It provides you with people you can contact when you need the right expertise, references you can rely on in rough times, insights into the success or failure of other companies, opportunities for new ventures or partnerships, interesting new perspectives, and so much more.
And, of course, the give-and-take of making networking connections means people can look to you as a potential resource as well. Not only is that a compliment to your skills, but helping others out can be incredibly satisfying on both personal and professional levels.
There is no denying that business networking can have a positive effect on your career. No matter what type of connections you make, there are clearly many ways networking events can bring value.
Worst case scenario? You meet some friendly people, get out of your regular social circle, and practice your elevator pitch. That’s not so bad either!