North East Virtual Assistant Conference
How to Network at meetings & Conferences

How to Network at meetings and conferences

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Attending a networking event such as a networking meeting or a conference can be a daunting prospect, particularly if it is your first time and you don’t know anyone else.  So, here are some top tips to get you started and so you know what to expect, you will feel more confident, and you will look like a networking pro!

Top Tip No.1:

Networking provides the opportunity for people to learn about one another and what they do; not for direct selling.  It’s kind of an unspoken rule of networking not to go in and try to sell your wares.  It may sound a bit strange because you want people to use your business services or products, but people do business with people.  Networking offers an opportunity to introduce yourself, find your ideal client, build relationships and it lets people know that you are there and how you can solve their pain points.

Remember, there may also be people there who can help and support you too.  For example, you may meet someone that would make a good supplier or trainer, for you and your business, or they may be someone you could endorse to your customers. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for people’s business cards so that you can recommend them to others or pop them in your own CRM.  People will appreciate that, and you will be remembered.

Top Tip No.2:

Plan your pitch – at networking events, you often get asked to give a 60-second pitch about yourself and your business.  As well as this, it’s good to have a one-liner that can be used to respond to questions about yourself and your business too.  Don’t wing it!  Plan these in advance.  It doesn’t have to be perfect but do make sure you get across to others what you do; try to keep it memorable and remember your ideal client – there are lots of good resources out there that help you to create and refine your pitch to make it work for you.

One of our speakers, Alison Magee-Barker has an online course available specifically designed to create your various pitches in a step-by-step way (£49), you can find it here:

Top Tip No.3:

If you attend a networking event regularly, you may get invited to do a longer presentation on you and your business; normally this is around ten to twenty minutes and gives you an opportunity to really showcase what you do. 

Top Tip No.4:

Networking is a slow burner – so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get immediate results, they will come in time, but you do have to be patient.   People like to get to know you as a person; they want to trust the person they may be doing business with in the future.  They may not require your services at present, but now they have your card and have got to know you better, they will remember you.  They may also recall you when talking to other people and recommend you; there is no better endorsement than a recommendation!  So don’t expect an instant result, some of my business has appeared nearly six years after I met that person at networking (yes, really), and it was well worth the wait. 

Top Tip No.5:

Don’t be worried if there is someone else there who does what you do.  I am a strong advocate of collaboration, not competition.  People will do business with people they relate to; different people have different specialities and areas of expertise.  For example, in one of my networking groups, I am one of four virtual assistants, but we have different areas of expertise, and in fact, we now regularly collaborate on projects together.  We have all gained different clients from that group who relate to the different personality types we have, so it works really well.

If you are attending an industry event then it is a great opportunity to meet others who do the same thing as you, share stories, learn from one another and even find potential opportunities to work with one another.

Top Tip No.5:

You get out of networking what you put in!  I’ve heard people complain they’ve joined and haven’t got any business, but it turns out they didn’t attend regularly, they didn’t follow up after meetings, and when they did attend, they didn’t really get involved in the conversations – my philosophy is turn up, follow up, be yourself and don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone.  When you do, you will start to reap the rewards.

Top Tip No.6:

When you are chatting with people, always try and give them your full attention.  There’s nothing worse than chatting to someone who is constantly looking around the room for someone better to talk to – you don’t want people remembering you for all the wrong reasons.

Top Tip No.7:

(I have to thank Joanne Hawkins from Be a Standout VA/North West VA Conference, for this one) If you are really nervous and struggle to start a conversation, stand by the coffee table, wait for somebody to come along and start with something like “Hi, I love your bag/earrings/shoes/tie/dress…” it’s a great way to get a conversation going.