To network or not to network, that is the question.
If you want to grow your business, then we vote “Yes” to in-person networking and we’re going to explain why.
What is in-person networking?
It’s strategically using opportunities to connect face-to-face with other business owners and/or your ideal clients.
It can be formal or informal.
For example, an informal networking opportunity might be a weekly yoga class held at your coworking space (< we offer that). A formal example would be attending one of the Sherwood Park & District Chamber of Commerce events.
Now let’s dig into WHY you should make time to attend some.
Reason #1: Visibility
Use networking events to get your business known
Yes, we live in a time when there are a lot of digital options for building brand awareness, but they can’t touch the power of in-person interactions.
Online, you can’t control what people read or when they click away to another website. When you’re talking with somebody in the flesh, you get the chance to tell people what your business does and who your business serves.
Some events such as conferences may offer you the opportunity to have a table or booth, which provides you with a dedicated space to showcase your business.
Taking advantage of sponsorship opportunities for events is another way to increase the visibility of your brand in your community.
Reason #2: New Leads
Network to uncover hidden opportunities
Over half of business and job opportunities are never advertised or promoted.
Any chance to be in the same room with other business owners can help you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on locally and who are looking for something you could help with.
Business owners often discount people they don’t think are a perfect match for their business.
Do not make this mistake.
Even if there’s an opportunity that isn’t the perfect fit for your business, referring them to somebody who can help them, can mean future business with them or referrals for you.
Building out a referral network is one of the best returns on the investment of your time at events.
Caution: Don’t take that as a green light to go in and sell, sell, sell.
People don’t like to have business cards shoved at them, and are much more receptive to people who are genuinely interested in learning and helping.
Lastly, always make sure that when you’re making referrals, it’s in everyone’s best interest.
Reason #3: Authority
Position yourself as an expert
Business networking events often include a speaker or panel discussion.
A knowledge exchange or workshop often include time for networking too.
Guess where event organizers tend to find people for those speaking engagements or panels?
That’s right, their community.
They invite people from their events or ask for recommendations from those same people.
Speaking, whether on stage, leading a workshop or on a panel, instantly creates credibility and elevates your position as an expert in your field.
When you are considered an authority in your field, the sales conversation becomes easier. The “Is he/she the right person to help me with this?” becomes less of an obstacle.
If the idea of public speaking makes you want to hide, take a deep breath.
You’re not alone. Most people have some degree of discomfort at the prospect of getting up in front of a crowd.
The good news is that there are groups such as Toastmasters to help you strengthen your speaking muscle. Find a Toastmaster Group in your area.
Reason #4: Clarity
Practice and perfect your elevator pitch
One way to start small with public speaking is to attend networking events that allow each attendee to introduce themselves and their business.
This is often referred to as your elevator pitch. You usually have less than a minute to share what you do and how they can work with you.
You should take time to prepare and practice your elevator pitch.
Then, whenever you have the opportunity to deliver it, take note of the questions people ask and where there seems to be a disconnect between what you’re saying and how it’s being received.
This is a great way to clarify your brand message. You can use the insights from these interactions to shape the words on your website or other marketing materials.
The clearer you can be, the easier it is to connect with your ideal clients and close more deals.
Reason #5: Connection
Go out and connect with other humans in-person
If you’re a solo business owner or entrepreneur, attending networking events provides a break from the isolation of working alone.
Business interactions are built on connections and relationships. Events give you the perfect opportunity to both create new connections and foster existing ones.
When you attend the same event more than once, the depth of the connections you make there deepen as you run into the same people more than once.
Not all networking events are the same, so try a few to find the ones that are the best fit for you. Keep in mind that you may need to attend a particular group more than once to get a real sense of who they attract and what the purpose of the event is.
According to the Harvard Business Review, in-person meetings were 34 times more likely to garner positive responses than a non-face-to-face meeting.
So yes, you can connect with prospects for your business by driving traffic to your website or on social media, but in-person interactions are much more powerful.
Reason #6: Relationships
Build on what starts at networking events
People love supporting local businesses.
According to a survey sponsored by American Express, 9 out of 10 Americans agreed that it was important to support small businesses in their community.
Not only do they think it’s important, 73% consciously made an effort to do just that.
That means that people around you want your business to succeed.
They want to buy your services or products.
The problem is that they can’t do that if they don’t know about your business.
Sure, you may be all over Google thanks to your great SEO strategy, but that takes a lot more effort on their part than listening to your elevator pitch or chatting for a few minutes after a presentation.
It’s worth repeating that even if you don’t walk out of an event with a brand new client, local word-of-mouth is still one of the best ways to get new customers.
There’s no way to know who somebody you meet at an event knows.
Building new business relationships involves more than a handshake and a new LinkedIn request.
Make sure you put time aside after an event to follow-up with the connections you’ve made to strengthen and grow those interactions into high-value relationships.
Focus on being genuinely interested and helpful. Do not start with, “Hey, We met yesterday. Wanna buy something?”
I hope you now see the value of attending local in-person networking events.
If you’re looking for some tips on how to network like a pro, Goldie Chan has put together a great list.
Clearly, we believe in the power in-person networking events offer to grow your business.
We often host events at our locations and if you’re looking for a venue for an upcoming event, we should talk.
If you’re not sure which event you should attend and are looking for a few local suggestions, we’d be happy to help you out.
Often I can be found at local events and really enjoy getting to know other business owners, so please introduce yourself so we can connect.
PS: If you haven't had the chance to check out our coworking spaces in Edmonton and Sherwood Park, Dylan & I would love to show you around and answer your questions about coworking. Book a tour now.