Business networking events, like other programs, sometimes don’t proceed as planned. Or, they weren’t formatted as you thought. Do you sulk and walk away? Or do you turn the unfortunate into a positive?
I recently learned of an event that I thought was open only to members of the local Chamber of Commerce. It was a pre-Grand Opening event for a new dessert place in town. I thought, Great! Check out a new business, and get in some networking. Imagine my surprise, then, when I noticed a line out front of the building. Turns out the business had broadcast the event, so dozens (perhaps hundreds) of people showed up.
Good for them. As for me, I needed to improvise.
My first step entailed scoping the crowd. I was looking for any familiar faces, particularly local business people. Didn’t see any. Hmmm.
Time for Plan B. What was that? Take a few pictures for the chamber of commerce’s website (I help out with that), and still try to do some networking. I didn’t want to give up this business networking opportunity.
Spotting an employee taking pictures, I approached her and asked permission to take my own. (Always ask for permission when you’re in a building.) She was enthusiastic, and ran into the office when I asked for a business card. Out came the owner who was just as ecstatic about the images.
So he’d recognize the name on the email, I pulled out a business card. Gave him a Rotary card, too. Hey, why not knock off two birds with one stone?
Still looking for opportunities to network, I headed outside. The fire department had brought over a few vehicles for a show ‘n’ tell demonstration. I chatted with one of the firemen for several moments, and gave him a Rotary card. Perhaps we could check out the Rotary club. That card has my business contact information on the back, so he can learn more about my business if he chooses.
A business networking event is really what you make it to be. Some go according to plan. As you can see from this example, even social events allow you the chance to network if you try.
A few lessons learned from this incident:
– Make sure you always carry business cards.
– Approach and talk with people as you normally do.
– Don’t push your business on them. Start the conversation on a neutral topic, and let it evolve.
– Provide a business card when you part ways. Even if the person isn’t a good prospect, he or she knows others.
Whether either of these contacts pans out remains to be seen. Regardless, I gained additional networking experience, and enjoyed some good food in the process.
For related reading, see “Craft thoughtful messages after business networking events” and “Break the script during business networking events.”
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