October 23, 2012 7.00 am This story is over 116 months old

Lincoln networker: Prepare for a networking event

Be prepared: In this week’s coloum, Mike Stokes offers advise on being prepared to network at a business event.

Whenever businesses fail to get value from networking events, it is nearly always because they have not prepared properly. Networking events are often dismissed as being casual meetings which are not be taken too seriously. This is a major mistake – networking is a valid marketing activity and therefore such events should be approached just like any other serious business meeting.

Good quality networking takes place at the start of an event, so it is important to arrive early. The venue must be confirmed (the actual building and room, not just the site) and the time, to ensure prompt arrival. Networking events are all about creating good first impressions, so it is necessary to understand the format of the meeting and the usual dress code – this will make sure a delegate looks the part.

Delivering a good pitch is fundamentally important, so it must be confirmed how long each delegate gets to speak and to whom (the room, a small group or one-to-one). It is wise also to understand the type of attendee who will be present, so the pitch can be tailored accordingly.

Costs must be established and finally it is vital that objectives are identified. As well as possible sales leads, delegates may wish to meet potential collaborators, new suppliers or specialist service providers. If a delegate recognises why they are going, then they can measure the outcomes.

When going to a networking event, there are a number of “must take” items. Forgetting these can result in not being able to maximise the results of the event. These are:

1. Business Cards
2. Pen & Notebook (to record details of delegates or notes from speakers)
3. Diary (so that follow-up meetings can be arranged immediately)
4. Flyers, leaflets (preferably items that other delegates can slip into their pockets)
5. Name Badge, ideally with the logo of the business
6. Notes, prompts, props

So, if a business is not getting much from its networking then they are probably not taking it seriously enough – they must prepare thoroughly, as they would for any other serious business activity.

Mike Stokes had a long exporting career and has advised new exporters since 2003. He networked prolifically to establish his own business and then in 2009 he formed his own networking group in Lincoln, The Business Club.