As an entrepreneur, networking is a crucial part of running your business. You get to meet new people, connections, and prospective clients. However, for a networking event to be a successful endeavor, you need to be strategic about your approach. Before the event, the most important thing you must do is to create a plan.
Where are you going?
First, review a map of where you are going. Where is the networking event being held? Do you know how to get there? Consider if you have a colleague who might want to attend as well. The more, the merrier.
What is the purpose?
Read the promotional materials and take a brief look at the agenda. By reviewing the website or marketing materials, you’ll know the important details like when the event is scheduled to start and how the program of events is supposed to flow.
For example, I have an event coming up, and the audience is comprised mostly of company representatives, business owners, and people of that nature. I’ve already looked at the venue and the flow of the events for the day, and I know how many people will be in attendance.
Since I know all these things already, I can prepare my stories of client testimonials ahead of time and tailor them to connect with the program topic of the event.
Who is going?
Does the program require pre-registration? If so, claim your spot and check who else has registered. By reviewing the list of registered guests, you can assess if your ideal audience will be present. If you’re not familiar with any of the names, check LinkedIn profiles of a few of the registered guests.
Now, don’t just focus on your ideal clients, also consider if potential partners for collaborations will be present. If neither your ideal clients or prospective collaborators will be present, you might want to reconsider going to that event.
What do you want to get out of it?
If you want to get the most out of a networking event, then you must figure out what you’d like to get out of the event. Going in blind or just because is not a smart move; it’s a plan that guarantees you’ll waste time.
Plan ahead and decide on your end goal. Do you want to get individual or company clients? Maybe you’d like to identify an opportunity to collaborate with a make-up artist or a hairstylist. Whatever the goal, get clear on it ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.
How will you present your work in a way that’s relatable?
Since networking events can be nerve-wrenching especially because people will ask variations of the following questions: What do you do? Where do you work? Why did you decide to become a stylist? Or, what does a stylist do?
Upon hearing any of these questions, you want to have relatable stories ready to go. I’ll give you a few examples.
A human resource [HR] professional that works for a company also works on development challenges of employees. With HR professionals you want to have stories of how you helped a client look and feel confident for a job interview or an important presentation. By presenting yourself as a professional who can fix a development problem for employees, you gain credibility and respect, which are critical for getting hired.
Let’s say you’re going to a conference, a trade show or hosting a booth where you’re the personal stylist being featured to give style advice to the attendees. Events like these are more conducive doing activities instead of networking events where there’s a guest speaker, and the event opens with attendees conversing.
If you’re hosting a booth, then create a relevant experience that’s relatable for attendees. Think of a challenge that they face and that you’ve fixed before and create an activity around it.
For example, maybe most of the attendees are women above 30 years of age. They’re young, fun-loving, they love to eat, and they are super expressive, and you’re going to be giving them style advice.
Think about what challenges women in general face when it comes to style, shopping, their image, and their confidence. One of them could be that they don’t understand their body types. Then create an experience to help them understand their body type and what style of clothes flatters their body type.
When it comes to discussing body types, most women are very sensitive, so you need to make sure you’re telling them that their bodies are beautiful just the way they are and that they should appreciate themselves. Stating comments like this in a loving way and in a manner where they feel appreciated and safe will allow your professionalism to shine through. If you did that and gave them a taste of what working with you feels like, then they’re more likely to be interested in buying your services.
Is it okay to sell all your services at once?
The short answer is no. The mistake that most professionals make is that they try to sell all their services at once. You try to sell a color analysis, a style consult, personal shopping, and everything you offer in a three-minute exchange. Yikes! After a thoughtless service-dump, your listeners can’t remember half the things you said. That’s not an ideal way to approach a potential client; you’ll end up overwhelming them.
Instead, take the time to listen to your new friends. Pay careful attention to your audience’s comments and how they express their style frustrations. Then choose just one service they can relate to and then give them a glimpse of what an experience of working with you looks and feels like. Let them know that you are familiar with their frustrations and that you know how to fix them. They’ll be more likely to ask more questions about your services and be open to considering working with you.
What kinds of questions will help you plan?
To help you be ready to maximize your networking events, here’s a set of questions for you to review:
- Are the attendees mostly women, men, or an equal mix of both?
- Which age brackets do most of those attendees lie?
- What kind of jobs do they have?
- What types of roles (wife, husband, mother, father, supervisor, volunteer, public speaker, lawyer, accountant, consultant, etc.) do they play in their lives?
- Are they married or single?
- Do they have an active lifestyle? Do they play sports?
- What do they do for fun?
The more you know about the attendees, the better you can plan. Planning based on these questions will help you create stories or activities that your audience can relate to. And if they can relate to your approach to styling, they’re more likely to see the value of your services.
So for the next networking event, plan ahead. Know where you are going, who is going to attend and what you hope to accomplish whether it be getting new clients or collaborations. When you get to the event, be courteous and professional. Try not to come off as pushy or sales-y because no one likes that guy or gal. Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun.
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