Spreading the word about your business is essential to its success. Hence, as a savvy entrepreneur, you need to be constantly on the lookout for ways and venues you can use to spread the word about your venture. And there is no better way to get the word out about your business than to join industry conferences, trade shows and events, where the movers and shakers in your industry converge.
Mere attendance to industry events, however, is not enough. You need to be out there rubbing elbows with people who matter, i.e. your potential customers, suppliers, partners and investors. Here are some tips to schmooze effectively:
1. Set out a goal.
When attending an event, always keep in mind the reasons why you registered. Whether you wanted to find new partners or suppliers for your business, or check out your competition, make sure that you accomplish your goal at the end of the day. Avoid mindless chatter with an acquaintance who has nothing to contribute to your business. Every minute counts, so head off to your goals and avoid distractions.
2. Do not show up for the sake of showing up.
Many entrepreneurs attend industry events merely to listen to the speeches and then take off, often failing to consider the immense value of networking with other participants. Plan your itinerary well and choose the activities you want to attend. Definitely, you have to be at the keynote and one mixer function. Be sure to mingle with the crowd, get acquainted with people in your industry, and exchange business cards.
3. Think twice before bringing family members.
Sure, you love your family and want to be with them all of the time. But oftentimes, industry events are not the right place to bring them along. If your child bawls and misbehaves, other participants will remember you as a parent that cannot handle a child. This could put your managerial skills in question. You’d want to avoid comments like “If she can’t handle her child, how can she be expected to handle her staff?”
4. Be on your best foot all the time.
When you are attending an event, you are representing your company. How well (or how bad you behave) will reflect on your business. Be sure to be on your best behavior at all times.
- Dress appropriately for every situation. Be business-like at all times, particularly during the social events that often come with industry conferences. Whether you are joining a round of golf with other participants, or attending the cocktail party, be sure to dress modestly. You do not want to stick out like a sore thumb in the crowd or call negative attention to yourself. At no time, wear anything that you do not want to be remembered later (e.g. “Ahh, you’re that slutty, er, sultry, woman”¨).
- Stay away from alcohol. Attending an industry event is not an excuse to drink all the free drinks that you can. If drinks are offered, limit yourself to two. Imagine the kind of impression you will leave a potential investor if you become so drunk that you had to pass out. Or as if often the case, too many drinks may loosen your tongue that you begin babbling about the most inappropriate matters. Drunkenness is the surest way to hurt your reputation.
- Watch what you say. People you meet during industry events are not interested in your personal life. Skip the confidence sharing part, and focus on your business.
When you leave the conference or seminar, be sure to do the most important thing: follow-up. Sort out the materials that you received and jot down the names in the business cards you collected in your Rolodex. Then take action! Who knows, they may be your next biggest buyer, mentor, supplier or financier!
Recommended Books on Networking:
- Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected
- Networking Like a Pro: Turning Contacts Into Connections
- Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success
- The 29% Solution: 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies
- Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need
- How to Make the Most of Industry Events, Trade Shows and Conferences
- Marketing an Event and Meeting Planning Business
- Marketing a Day Care Business with an Opening Day Event
- How to Turn “Socializing” into “Networking”
- 5 Biggest Business Networking Mistakes – and How to Avoid Them