Being Bruce -: Networking Event Tip #9 - Don't Go Alone! Supersize Your Results with a Strategic Partner

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Networking Event Tip #9 - Don't Go Alone! Supersize Your Results with a Strategic Partner

When you attend a Networking Event, particularly if you don't know a lot of people already, it's a great idea to go with someone else. If you go with the right person and discuss the event ahead of time, you can maximize your time during the event.

The two of you can introduce each other to other folks you each know separately, which can remove a little awkwardness if you're a bit shy about introductions plus, if one of you already knows people at the event, you can steer the introductions to people who are the best fit in personality or businesses.

Since one of the underlying assumptions behind the whole idea of referral-based and relationship marketing is about trusted introductions, having a friend introduce you at a networking event is already working that model.

But here are a few ways to maximize benefit when you go to an event with someone else:

- Do go with a good networker and someone who is confident and social. Don't go with someone who will just cling to you and hang back. With a weaker social type not only you not benefit from added introductions you'll likely also feel social obligation to make sure that person has a good time and meets people. The net benefit will be negative.

- Do go with someone who understands that the trade off is that you will introduce each other, in a natural manner, when it's appropriate, but NOT someone who will dominate him or herself or ignore you in favor of her or his own networking.

- Don't go with someone in your own field. Why not? If you're a caterer and you go to an event with a another caterer, what will you say when you introduce him or her? "Here's Tim, he's a caterer too" (Unspoken possible mixed messages: A. But don't use him, use me; B. But I'm better than she is; C He's better than I am; D. I'm bringing her because I'm selling her my business.) This can be confusing for others and lessen your effect.

- A person in a complimentary field or, better yet, someone with whom you have a strategic alliance is best. If you belong to a weekly networking group like BNI, where you already know the people in the group and their businesses well, going to other networking groups is a very strong way to show up with partners. There's a lot more to say about strategic alliances in networking (look for a related tip later), but the kernel of truth here is when a strong alliance partner introduces another strong alliance partner, both benefit immediately.

- I recommend you not attend an event with someone from your own company unless you're sponsoring the event or if it's a larger event. My rule of thumb is one person per company is all it takes for every 40-60 people who will be at a two hour event, unless the people attending are weak networkers and can't work a room effectively or need to see you working effectively. For most effective use of your time, if you do go with someone from your company, separate immediately and network on your own.

- If you attend an event with a co-worker or friend, don't spend your time talking together, you can do that at work or in your everyday life. Talk to other people. That's why you're there!

- PG-13 Tip - On a related, cautionary note that may not be fair or politically correct: if you attend networking events with someone from your company who is of your preferred sexual orientation and you spend all or even most of your time with that person and talking to that person, it can send the wrong message and even repel others who don't want to bother you in your "special time". Not good, not effective, and can be detrimental.

Stated more bluntly, if you are looking forward to a networking event because you can be there with a hunk or hottie from your own company, reconsider. If you want to date someone, date 'em, but don't mix motivations. And actually, putting on my dating advisor hat, if you went for that reason and the other person didn't, if she or he was at the event to actually work the event professionally, you could look like a jerk and annoy that object of your, um, attention.

Catch a clue or get a room but don't use a networking event as a chance to hit on a co-worker. This should probably be a tip of it's own - or maybe a movie!

Today's Wilmington, NC area Networking Events:

- 11:30 AM Ribbon-cutting (and refreshments) at Smithfields in Leland in front of Waterford

- 5-8 PM Strictly Business Networking at Cameo Lumina Station in Wilmington off Eastwood Road (RSVP via this link)

- 6-8 PM Wilmington Professional Group at Wilmington Kitchens, Galleria Mall, off Wrightsville Avenue

This post is one in a series on how to make the most of in-person networking events. If you're going to go (and I suggest you do if your business benefits from relationships), you might as have the most fun possible and give and receive the greatest benefits from the occasion.

If you know of a networking event in the greater Wilmington Area [which means to me anywhere from Topsail Island, NC to North Myrtle Beach, SC] that's open to visitors, drop me a note ahead of time and I'll try to post it.