STEP MARKETING PORTAL
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Essential Top Tips: Personal Networking and Event Management
Networking is an essential component of marketing in the professional service sector. Key issues in the
buying process are intangible and include a sense of professionalism, trust and personal chemistry. These
issues are extremely hard to establish outside of personal contact. Meeting potential clients or referrers via
networking provides an opportunity to project professionalism, capability and personality and engender a
sense of trust.
Opportunities for networking are many and varied and include:
Formalised networking events managed by others e.g. Chamber of Commerce
Informal networking events
Professional association dinners
Sports and social events
Exhibitions and trade shows
For many organisations it is not a case of finding networking events but evaluating how useful they are for
the organisation. Events need to be evaluated in terms of their potential ability to provide access to good
quality contacts. Having decided that an event is worth attending just being at the event may not deliver
positive outcomes. It may well be worth asking an organiser for a list of attendees to prioritise people to
meet and in some instances it may be appropriate to pre-arrange a meeting at an event.
Having decided to attend an event a small amount of preparation is required. Having an adequate supply of
business cards, a pen and a small supply of literature that could be requested by people at the event
requires simple planning but is often overlooked.
Understanding the Room
Some individuals find the prospect of interaction with a room of unknown people quite daunting. However,
there are ways in which to open up conversations or discussions with attendees.
For those who find the process challenging it is perhaps worth stating that many, if not, most people in the
room will be in a similar situation. They too are there to meet with others and will typically appreciate
meeting new people so a self introduction is likely to be welcomed.
A quick scan of the room should help determine the opportunities to join a group discussion. By looking at
clusters of people it is relatively easy to determine which groups are ‘open’ for others to join. The body
language of a closely knit group or pairing, is different to that of a group that is open to new people. A group
where body posture and physical spacing of people allows for additional people to join a conversation is
likely to welcome new people. These groups can be approached with relative ease and at a polite pause in
conversation, a simple self introduction to the group should be possible. Having joined the group a series of
simple open questions can help in understanding the people, their organisations and their interests. Open
questions also suggest an interest in members of the group and will likely result in reciprocal questions that
will allow the attendee to share information about their business and their personal interests.
Another useful tool for meeting new people is to identify one or two known contacts and to join a group
that they are part of and effectively use the existing contact to introduce the attendee to others. This can
even be pre-arranged if there are particular people on a guest list that an attendee may want to meet. The
organiser on the day can often assist in facilitating such introductions since it their objective to maximise the
value of the event to attendees.
Mutuality of Benefit
One very useful principle that applies to professional services marketing is that of mutuality of benefit. This
mind set is one that is well received in most circumstances. It involves a willingness of an individual or
indeed an organisation to attempt to facilitate introductions or opportunities for others through the
contacts of an individual or an organisation. Once understood this becomes a natural part pf doing business.
It could involve sharing information with others about potential new business opportunities, an offer to
introduce people to existing contacts that could benefit the new contact, alerting the new contact to
another event that they could benefit from, or an introduction to an existing client or supplier.
If an individual or organisation is known for their ability to foster mutually beneficial relationships it will
enhance their reputation within the business community and could result in active referral
as the individual
or business is seen as being ‘useful to know’ by other contacts. Clearly this principle needs to be deployed
carefully and in the case of introducing others to clients the existing client must also benefit from the new
introduction. Excessive new introductions may also be resented if there is no benefit to it.
There are networking bodies (typically breakfast groups) that thrive on a structured approach to facilitated
introductions. Care should be taken not to irritate contacts and clients through unwanted new introductions
that serve only to make an attendee appear proactive at the breakfast meeting.
Having showed a willingness to help anther individual or organisation it is quite likely that others will seek to
assist the referring individual or business as a gesture of thanks and goodwill.
SUMMARY ACTION POINTS FOR PERSONAL NETWORKING
Evaluate the potential of an event or a networking group before committing to it.
Plan attendance and obtain attendee lists and look for specific introductions.
Scan the room to determine which conversations are open to new members.
Use open ended questions to stimulate conversation.
Seek mutuality of benefit as a means of fostering relationships.
In a crowded business calendar it can be difficult to arrange events that are distinctive and deemed to be
worthy to attend. Events in many senses are competitive. Clients and contacts have busy agendas and they
will have to prioritise what events they will be able to attend and trade off the benefit it will bring with the
time commitment required. Target clients need to be convinced that an event is worth attending and the
communication of the benefits to the attendee has to be well executed. The benefit could be a business one
where new contacts are likely to be made, it could be knowledge based where best practice is explained or
it could simply be entertainment.
As with other forms of communication the initial invitation will help establish expectations in the minds of
the target attendee. If the invitation looks haphazard or unattractive the expectation will be that the event
will be similarly unattractive and as such attendance rates will likely be poor.
The subject, timing and theming of the event also needs very careful consideration. Diary clashes can be
caused by school holidays, major sporting events and other events. Such clashes are to be avoided. The
timing of the event during the day needs to be considered in order to maximise attendance. Some prefer
breakfast events other evening events but, as a general rule, timings that impact upon the work day should
be avoided unless the event has considerable substance.
For events where enjoyment is the theme some creativity is useful. There are a plethora of drinks parties
and events that key decision makers are invited to and organisers of an event need to consider why their
event will be chosen. Some lateral thinking and a degree of creativity are very much appreciated and can
dramatically impact on attendance levels.
Operational planning for the event should not be left to chance and a detailed checklist of items for action
should be agreed well in advance and individuals allocated to specific jobs. This background attention to
detail will engender a sense of professionalism at the event itself.
SUMMARY ACTION POINTS FOR HOSTING EVENTS
Carefully plan the timing of the event.
Consider why people would want to attend the event.
Ensure invitations to events stand out and attract interest.
Compile planning checklists to ensure events run smoothly.
Avoid ‘me too’ events that replicate events that have already taken place.
As a host actively look to introduce attendees to others at an event.
For more information, or to give your feedback on STEP’s Essential Top Tips, please contact the
STEP Marketing team:
Artillery House (South),
11 – 19 Artillery Row,
SW1P 1RT, UK
+44 (0)20 7340 0500