As part of our Art of Networking blog series we are delighted to introduce as a guest blogger Janet Falk who provides media relations and marketing communications services to law firms, financial services firms, business owners, consultants and nonprofit executives. In this article Janet provides advice on how in-depth preparation can help to maximize your networking success.
According to the maxim of ‘fish where the fish are’, you consider attending a huge networking event hosted by an industry or professional organization. You do not know anyone who is a member, but prospective clients are regular attendees at these events.
Prepare yourself for this golden opportunity; do not become lost among a room full of folks you have never met before. Follow these five steps to build your own welcoming committee and maximize the networking potential of the industry event.
- After you pre-register for the event, scrutinize the host organization’s website. Assemble a list of the officers, board members and committee chairs. Prepare an introductory email with the subject line: “Will you attend the EVENT on DATE?” Briefly describe yourself and your background, plus your work with a related business, along these lines:
Your name came to my attention as an officer of the ORGANIZATION.
I am a PROFESSIONAL who specializes in AREA OF MUTUTAL INTEREST.
Having worked with RELEVANT COMPANY on various projects in YOUR FUNCTIONAL ROLE OR AREA, I wish to learn more about the ORGANIZATION and how, if I become a member, I might get involved in your activities.
Perhaps we can chat at the EVENT, where I’m eager to meet you and your colleagues.
The leaders of the organization will be excited to get an email from a potential member. Quite a few will email you back with a big welcome. Why? They are interested in bringing in new members; professionals who offer specialized expertise their current members may require are especially attractive candidates for membership.
- Reply promptly and warmly to their replies and indicate that you will wear a distinctive article of clothing to make it easy for you to spot each other in a crowded room. Perhaps a man has a yellow tie or a woman wears a red jacket. You have now prepared the contacts to seek you out and welcome you.
- Before going to the event, review the photos of the officers on the organization’s website or their LinkedIn profiles. Put the list of their names in your pocket; it is your check-list for the evening.
- At the event, ask the people at the registration table to help you identify one or two of the contacts you’ve emailed. When speaking with them, initially ask about the industry or professional organization itself, and make that topic your ice breaker. Learn why they became members, what they most enjoy about the group and what was their most recent contribution to its activities. Only discuss yourself and your business interests in passing. As the conversation flows, and you collect their business cards, mention that you were in touch with others on your list and ask if you may meet them, too. By making this request for an introduction, you burnish the reputation of your new contact in the other officer’s eyes, for she will be seen bringing new members into the fold. Check the names on your list and meet as many of the officers and committee chairs as possible.
- As always, follow-up after the event with those you met. Whether you send an email or connect on Linkedin, indicate what a pleasure it was to connect in person and how much you learned about the organization. Naturally, you look forward to seeing them soon at other events. If you have become a member, do let them know your conversation led you to join. Perhaps you were unable to meet some of the people on the list, because they were busy talking with others or did not attend. Accordingly, send them a slightly different email that mentions you have joined the organization and would like to chat with them over coffee.
This pre-event marketing approach and advance preparation transforms you from a newcomer or a bystander into a focus of attention. You demonstrate that your interests align with those of the people you meet. You create a shared agenda of the benefits of membership and the activities of the industry organization, in which these contacts are heavily invested. Thanks to that common ground, you will maximize your networking success as you work toward your own business development goals.
Janet Falk of Falk Communications and Research provides media relations and marketing communications services to law firms, financial services firms, business owners, consultants and nonprofit executives. She may be reached at 212-677-5770 or [email protected]