“It’s all about who you know”; a phrase often used in a variety of businesses and industries which, as much you might hate to agree, is often true. Networking events may not be the most exciting and the suggestion of which is often followed by a (maybe not so subtle) eyeroll, but networking effectively is invaluable. If you’re looking to expand a business, drum up potential new clients or just make some contacts, networking events shouldn’t be ignored. Don’t worry, there’s almost always free drinks and cake to help get you through.
To help you master the Cardiff networking scene, we’ve compiled our top 10 tips so that you can make the most of networking events.
1. Preparation is key
As the scouts coined, “always be prepared”; you’ve probably heard it over and over, and that’s because it’s true! When it comes to networking events, ask around the office or have a scroll through Eventbrite to see which ones suit you the best. Get yourself organised and map out which events you’re going to, when they are and who you can expect to meet. If you know who’s going to be there, you can prepare talking points and go in with an aim.
2. Quality over quantity
Its not how many people you talk to, its how you talk to the people you meet and the lasting impression you leave. Its great to meet loads of new people, but what’s the point if you leave and can’t remember any of their names? Get chatting in a small group, or even branch off into pairs, and find out as much as you can about them professionally. Don’t forget to give 60 second elevator pitch too!
3. Collaborate, don’t compete
One of the great benefits of networking is that you meet people from the same industry who could be potential competition. Meeting them face to face gives you the opportunity to talk and find out what you have in common, and what they may offer that you don’t, giving the chance for a potential collaboration. Collaboration means you’re giving clients the exact service they want by offering them more, as you’ve got the knowledge of not just one, but two. Remember when Uber and Spotify collaborated? They were two complementary services that added value to each other to personalise customer experience, and they were unbelievably successful. Winners all round!
4. Know your business
Before attending a networking event, make sure you’re clear on the areas of your business, or proposition, that you want to sell. Remember why you came to the event in the first place (aside from the free cake) and discuss key points of your business, and how others could benefit from having you as a contact. Discuss the future vision for your business and mention how they could be help you get there.
5. Know your aim and what to expect
Go with an aim for the event, whether it’s to make 3 new contacts or organise to meet with someone again. An aim will keep you motivated to talk to people and helps give each conversation a direction. Keep your expectations realistic; don’t expect to come out with contact details or a meeting organised with everyone there. It’s unlikely and may make you feel disheartened if you’ve gone in with high expectations and been unable to meet them.
6. Leave an impression and a business card
This is possibly the most important point to remember when attending networking events. Give them a positive reason to remember you. Ask questions about their business and find common ground, highlight how you could work together and then exchange business cards. By leaving a good impression you’re more likely to leave a lasting one, leading to future opportunities for collaboration.
7. Have your elevator pitch down to a T
Keep it short, keep it snappy, and make sure it includes the most important information about your business and what you do. When discussing your business give your elevator pitch, not only to highlight the business but also to show what you can offer, or what you might be looking for.
8. Don’t forget the power of LinkedIn
‘The business Facebook’ is not only a great platform to keep others up to date on your career development, but also for you to create business connections. After a networking event, connect with the people you spoke with to show you’re keen to keep in touch. You’ll be able to see their business activities and find any opportunities that could be suitable for you or your business.
9. Leave them wanting more
Once you’ve given your elevator pitch and highlighted what you could offer people, leave them to get ideas together and consider where you may be able to work together. The most important thing is to leave them with your business card and encourage them to get in touch.
10. Keep in touch
Meeting new contacts is great but can be a complete waste of time if you don’t keep in touch afterwards. Connect on LinkedIn and exchange email addresses and telephone numbers, and don’t forget to message after the event. A simple “was great to meet you” email will let them know you were serious about any discussion of collaboration, and so begins a line of communication.
Attending events and making new contacts will also give you the chance to say “I know someone who can help with that” the next time a problem arises, or a specific service is needed. And who doesn’t love to be able to look that good in front of their boss?
Keeping these tips in mind will mean you’ll never dread a networking event again and instead will see it for what it is - a worthwhile opportunity from which you can expect positive outcomes in the form of great contacts and further business opportunities. (The free cake is still a major bonus.)
If you want to get started right away, here are some regular Cardiff events that you can attend: Cardiff Breakfast Club, Introbiz, Zokit, Cardiff Business Club, IoD Wales, South Wales Chamber of Commerce and 3rd Thursday Cardiff, held here at Park Plaza.
Looking to host your own event? Whether it’s a networking event, wedding, party, or gala dinner, take a look at Park Plaza Cardiff’s event spaces and find one that works perfectly for you.