How to make quality connections at networking events
September 9, 2016 by Kevin Oubridge
With a touch of preparation and a smidge of know-how, networking events can be brilliant opportunities to find new coaching clients. Of course, not every networking event results in a clutch of promising contacts; some turn out to be a complete waste of time.
To maximise your chances of making quality connections (which will hopefully turn into loyal clients) at your next networking event, we’ve put together five practical tips for putting your best foot forward at a mixer.
1 Choose your networking events wisely
If your aim is to find new coaching clients, don’t attend networking events solely based on the fact that you’re interested in the keynote speaker or presenter. Rather, decide which networking events you want to attend based on who the other guests are likely to be. If possible, find out who’s signed up for the event beforehand and do a little research on who they are, where they work and what their goals are. This way, you’ll be well equipped to spark up an engaging, relevant conversation that makes a lasting impression.
2 Bring your business partner along.
Attending a mixer or networking event can be intimidating when you’re flying solo. If possible, take a colleague or your business partner along with you. Not only will this make you feel more confident when striking up a conversation with a perfect stranger – and potential client – but it will also improve your chances of making more connections between the two of you.
Don’t forget why you’re there, however: it can be tempting to end up chatting to your partner all evening instead of making an effort to start conversations and make new connections. Make sure that you’re both prepped and motivated to meet, greet and connect with new potential coaching clients.
3 Practice articulating your unique selling point (USP).
In order to market yourself effectively – whether in person at a networking event or via your online marketing efforts – you need to be able to answer two questions: How do your coaching services meet your clients’ needs, and what sets you apart from other executive coaches? The answers to these two questions makes up your USP. To set yourself apart from other executive coaches trawling the same event, make sure that you can quickly and clearly communicate your USP to a new acquaintance without any umming and ahhing.
4 Ask questions – and really listen to the answers.
Resist the urge to ramble on about yourself and your services. Instead, ask well thought out questions and listen closely to the responses. If you’re able to access the event guest list beforehand, prepare some specific questions aimed at the attendees you plan to get chatting to. Doing this will help you cement quality connections in two ways. Firstly, people respond better to new acquaintances who show genuine interest in what they have to say. Secondly, this first meeting is a golden opportunity to gather valuable information about a potential new client, which will help you make your follow-up messages as relevant as possible.
5 Personalise your follow-up.
When you follow up with new contacts after a networking event, don’t simply send out a generic ‘It was nice to meet you’ email or blank LinkedIn request. Instead, try to refer back to a topic you discussed on the night or hone in on a piece of information the contact gave you about themselves. It’s helpful to jot down any interesting points or reminders on a new contact’s business card to jog your memory when you reach out to them later. Personalisation, a show of genuine interest and a reminder of your USP are key to making your follow-up message stand out from the rest.
When you put these tips into action, networking events can be a great way to build new connections, as well as maintain existing ones. If you want to know more about how to find coaching clients by understanding their needs and playing to your strengths as a coach, find out more about our course here.