Local business networking events are a great place to meet other business owners in your community. If you effectively network then you may even make some lasting connections that lead to referrals.
Local business networking events are the original LinkedIn and they’re still an effective way to grow a presence in your local community.
To effectively network you must break free from the default mindset and act like a networker.
What’s the default networking mindset?
Me, me, me.
It’s easy to go to networking events thinking what you want to get out of them.
Networking isn’t about what others can do for you though. Any effective networker will tell you that it’s about what you can do for others.
But first, you have to find local business networking events that you’d like to attend.
Find An Event
Even in small towns across the world, there’s always some type of business networking event.
You just need to know where to look. Luckily there are a lot of great places where you can find these events.
It’s possible to find good events on Google with the right search term or you can go straight to the source of good events.
On search engines just search [cityname] business networking events or you can boil it down to small business if you’d like.
The search will probably turn up lists of events in the area you searched.
These are the top results on Google you’ll probably see when you do a search for local business networking events.
For regular business networking events that happen on a schedule, Meetup is a good place to check.
You’ll find most networking groups will list their group and give you details about it. You’ll even see the organizers and regular attendees if they RSVP.
You may want to take a few minutes to research the leaders of the group so you can introduce yourself properly.
There are others places where you can find local business networking events and even network online also.
There are probably hundreds of groups on Facebook for your local area.
The challenge with Facebook groups is finding good networking events and not just groups full of self-promotion.
There are good local business networking groups so sift through the results and find the good ones. If you do find a good one then it’ll be a treasure trove for meeting local business owners.
If all else fails with looking then you can ask.
Nextdoor isn’t the best place to look for small business networking events but it is a great place to ask.
If you ask on Nextoor then you’ll get good suggestions that are already filtered by the community.
Personal recommendations are always better than a random search because the person recommending it is actually vouching for the event.
Now that you have an event to go to, the next thing to do is show up. That’s the only way you’ll learn how to effectively network.
It sounds a bit funny saying your entrance as if it’s supposed to be some grand and impressive entrance.
You simply should be on time for the event or a few minutes early.
Don’t be awkwardly early but just 3-5 minutes maximum or right on time. You can wait in your car for a few minutes so you can time it better.
It’s not good being late though. If you’re late then you’ll have a harder time making your way in because everyone will already be mingling.
Not only will being late throw off your game but it will also make you miss out on valuable networking time.
You arrived on time or a few minutes early, perfect. Now it’s time to make use of your time and effectively network.
At The Event
Don’t want to be that guy (or gal).
You know, the one who either hangs out in one place waiting for people to come to you so you can give them your card and tell them all about your wonderful business.Being an effective networker means not having the 'me me me' mindset. It's about mutual interest. Click To Tweet
There’s nothing that will waste your time and others time more than that.
What’s the first thing people think after getting handed a card and told all about a business without even asking?
“Wow, that was a waste of time and someone I would never recommend or do business with.”
Don’t be self-serving at networking events.
To take full advantage of small business networking events you should behave in a certain way and avoid other behaviors.
Unfortunately, many of the ones to avoid also come to new networkers most naturally.
I know, it’s a nerve-racking experience but if you understand what to do beforehand then you’ll be that much more prepared to network effectively.
Don’t do this at networking events
These are the biggest no-nos of how to participate in a local business networking event.
- Jump right into handing out your business card.
- Tell people about your business without them asking.
- Leave the focus only on you and your business.
If you stay away from these 3 things then you’ll have a more successful time networking.
There are also some things you can do to more effectively network.
What you should do to effectively network
There’s one simple rule of thumb to keep in mind when at a networking event.
Listen and learn.
The saying that you should listen and speak in the same proportion as you have ears and a mouth is doubly true for networking.
Listen at least twice as much as you speak. You’ll want to learn more about others and pick out where you might be able to help best.Effective networking is all about listening and learning more than talking about you. Click To Tweet
You’ll be able to more effectively spend your time at the networking event this way and understand who’s going to be more valuable after the event ends.
If someone doesn’t want to learn about who you and your business are then don’t bother telling them. Save yourself the time.
The selfish networkers are there for themselves only and are not looking to make connections. They’ll want to give you their business card, talk about themselves, and move on to another person to hand their business card to.
You’re just a means to the end.
If you do end up in a long diatribe from these networkers end it as quickly as possible and throw their business card away. There’s no value there.
Here’s my list of to-do’s to effectively network.
- Avoid selfish networkers.
- Introduce yourself to as many people as possible and find others who also want to network.
- Cover the surface only and don’t spend too much time with one person.
- Pick out people who you can network with and save their info to meet with them later.
The last point is the most important. Local business networking events are fast paced and there’s a lot of people there.
The goal isn’t to get into depth with each person but to cover the room to find those who are more valuable to get into depth with.
Once you pick out the people you connect with and you see a mutual benefit, ask if they’d like to meet 1 on 1 sometime in the coming week.
You might get invites to meet 1 on 1 with others but make sure you pick and choose carefully. You don’t have time to meet every person who wants to meet, it’s too much.
Schedule meetings only with those you can form a partnership with.
The Following Days
You met, you avoided the pitfalls and effectively networked.
Good for you!
If you did everything right then you probably made at least 1 or 2 good connections.
You mentioned to them you’d like to meet with them in the next week and got contact information.
Now you’ll set up a 1 on 1 meeting with the important business owners. This is the perfect time to get to know someone in depth.
This is the time to understand their problems, goals, what they do in detail, etc.
These connections you make will be important to your business because they could lead to great referrals in the future. Not only that but if you’re ever in the position then you can make a referral to another local business who you have thoroughly vetted.
Relax and enjoy having a good conversation with another entrepreneur minded person. It’s a great time to relax at a coffee shop and get to know what others are trying to do in the business world.
Not all meeting will lead to something great and networking is something that takes time and money. As with all things you won’t see success from going to one local business networking event.
Don’t Give Up
Networking takes willingness and work. It won’t do you any good to go to one networking event, not make any 1 on 1 connections and then call it quits because you didn’t get business.
Going thinking you’ll get business immediately is a recipe for disaster and you’re wasting your time.
As with anything, networking will take time to work. You won’t always come back successful.
No method of expanding your business is any different. Social media takes time, advertising takes time, and networking is no different.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have success the first few times. Eventually, you’ll have built up a good network of local business owners who want to help each other succeed.
You’ll research others before and after meeting and others will do the same. Your online presence is an important part of this.
Business owners will research you online and it’s the final piece of how to effectively network.
While you’re networking you’ll probably hand out a business card or 2 or 3 or 20.
A percentage of those you hand business cards are going to email you. Do you have a professional email address?
They’ll also be looking for a website address and may even type it into a browser.
Are you ready for that?
You’ll want to make a great first impression when another business owner looks you up. They’ll want to see that you truly are a professional. they’ll also want to know more about you.
If a business owner can’t learn more about you and what you offer then neither will those they could refer to you.
The likelihood that you’ll get a referral without a good online presence is minimal.
That’s why you should always have a good online presence and of course understand how it connects with likely customers.
You can get a free Online Presence Report to see how your online presence is doing and get tips that will help you improve it.