How to Dominate Networking Events for New Leads
Prep Work is Key to Strong Lead Gen at Networking Events
You’re standing near the back of a networking event. The keynote speaker is wrapping up their presentation.
You awkwardly look at your phone to look busy. When you finally decide it’s time to meet new people, you run into familiar faces. Soon you realize you’ve spent most of the night catching up with them. People are already starting to leave and you begin to panic. You haven’t received a single new business card so you frantically approach a group of people. They’re mid-conversation and you don’t know how to introduce yourself. You go home with a tiny list of new contacts that you likely won’t end up doing business with.
It happens to everyone at some point. Networking can be nerve-wracking, especially if you don’t set clear goals beforehand. The people who truly work the room at networking events have already won before they set foot in the venue. They leave the event feeling like a champion. With our guide, you’ll become a lead gen boss at every networking event you attend. All it takes is preparation.
Preparation is Essential to Getting New Business Leads
1. Research the speakers and event organizers as much as you can. What have they done recently and how does it relate to the business you do? These are the people getting bombarded with business cards and pitches. You want to stand out, right? Bring up their recent events and give them a reason why you should schedule a meeting.
2. Stalk attendees on social media. Facebook events and Meetup listings will be your savior here. You can scroll down the list of everyone who RSVP’d and find the attendees most relevant to your business. Follow the same principle as researching speakers. Have a talking point prepared before you see them in person.
3. Tell everyone you’re attending the event. Okay, maybe not everyone. At the very least, help the event host out a bit and share a bit of promotion for the event on social media.
4. Create a 2 week schedule of time slots for meetings and phone calls. Leads generated at networking events easily fall through the cracks. With your availability ready on your phone, you can skip steps. No need to send a follow up email to coordinate schedules.
5. Think about the type of people you want to meet. Who do you want to meet and why? Not everyone you talk to at the event will fit the bill. But you can ask them if they have contacts in their network that you can do business with.
6. Elevator pitch. Practice, practice, practice. The elevator pitch is key to using time efficiently at a networking event. Your goal at this event is not only lead generation, but to fill up as many of your meeting time slots as possible. You need to explain who you are, what you do and why they need to tap into your valuable time.
7. Prepare email templates for the different types of contacts you’ll make. Again, you have to think about standing out from others. Provide value in these emails. My favorite move is to take notes on the event speakers’ presentations and to send them out as a 1-page PDF. I give a real personal touch to it by rewriting my notes in a notebook with my best penmanship and scan it. Ever received an email like this? Memorable to the max.
Lead Generation Mentality Once You’re at the Networking Event
1. Focus on your goals. You need to generate leads and you need to fill meeting time slots.
2. Don’t fall into the trap of only talking to familiar faces. Catch up with them, but keep it brief and be transparent with them. You’re here to meet new people. Tell them you need to hit your goals. They’ll understand and respect it, trust us.
3. The Name Game. Introduce yourself with your full name, company title and something that will stick in their head. This could be a recent accomplishment, a quirk about your last name or anything you’re proud of. Use the same introduction with as many people as possible. If done right, you’ll become a discussion point either during the event or after. “Did you meet the person who landed an article on Forbes with zero budget?”
4. Move on. Don’t spend too much time with chatting with a single person. Your goal is to fill up your time slots, not to flesh out deals on the spot. Respectfully let people know you need to make your rounds in the room and continue generating leads.
5. “How can we work together?” This is a question that has worked for us at networking events for years. It won’t only get creative juices flowing. It also makes them immediately see you as a new business partner.
6. Ask open ended questions. People love to talk about themselves, especially (startup) entrepreneurs. Listen to what they want you to know about them and be attentive to their tone. They’re here for the same reason as you. Think about the types of people they’re trying to meet and if you fall into that category.
7. Handshake psychology. Learn the art of the handshake. Not too limp, not too firm. It’s pretty common to have a drink (or 2) at networking events to loosen up and feel more confident. Make sure to hold your drink in your opposite hand. No one likes a cold, wet handshake.
Go home and immediately follow up with your new leads.
1. Connect with them on LinkedIn.
2. If you chose a time slot for a meeting or call, send them a Google Calendar invite and confirm the time and date.
If you didn’t decide on a time slot, send them your entire availability with a deadline on setting a meeting time. Your time is valuable and so is theirs. First impressions are also valuable. Would you actually want to do business with someone who’s a simply schedule a meeting with?
The Takeaway: Your success in lead gen at networking events is 100% reliant on how prepared you are. Do thorough research of the speakers, event organizers and attendees. Never stray from your true goals: generating leads and booking meetings.