The internet’s great, but you just can’t beat a face-to-face chat. This is especially true when generating leads.
By attending events focussed towards your niche, you can make connections with important people in a way that you just can't online.
If you can pluck up the courage to speak at these events, you'll be able to communicate directly with a bigger audience, and generate a healthy flow of new leads while boosting your reputation as an expert.
If you're not ready to speak, simply attending is a great way to mix with all the right people and start building your personal brand. Here are a few ways to maximise your success at these events.
Targeted mingling (not stalking)
To make the most of networking, it helps to have a focus.
Before attending think about whether you simply want more leads, whether you want to find people who can help you develop your business, or whether building your reputation is the key aim.
Knowing what you want to achieve will give you a focus, and help you avoid drifting around the room like a lost puppy.
If possible, try and investigate who will be attending the event in advance. This will give you chance to do a little research, and then tailor your message to make it more relevant when you ‘happen’ to bump into them.
Just remember to be subtle with this. I’d definitely advise against stalking them around the room or freaking them out by guessing their kids names and horoscopes correctly!
Forget the 90’s body language books you’ve read
If, like me, you were told to squeeze hands tightly – with your hand on top in a dominant position – and stare them in the eye whilst shaking vigorously – don’t.
It doesn’t work, it just makes their hands hurt and weirds them out. Also, if you happen to do it to an alpha male who has read the same book, you could be in for one hell of a long handshake.
Don’t do the limp shake either, just something relaxed and middle of the road will do.
When talking, don’t just broadcast into faces. Listen to what other people have to say, and see if you can help them in any way. People love to be listened to.
If they look like someone you want to speak with again, confirm that they would like a follow up, and then make sure you get their contact details and let them know when you will be contacting them. This gives you a certain level of control over what happens next.
While simply attending an event and mixing with the right people will be beneficial, you can really take the advantages to the next level by becoming actively involved.
Speaking at events is one of the best ways to build your reputation as an expert and get your ideas out there – it’s the best business card on the planet.
The more you integrate yourself into the business community within your niche, the easier it will be to get speaking gigs.
It doesn't matter if you're currently a bit of an unknown – there's no harm in asking. Look for people who are organising small seminars or conferences, and get in touch with them offering an angle you don’t think they have covered.
Most people find public speaking pretty daunting, but it will give you a fantastic platform, and a chance to really engage with your audience and build your credibility.
Speaking at one event may bring further invitations, and you can quickly become a regular speaker on a given topic. Don't necessarily expect payment – a lot of the time, the benefits speaking provide you with will be far greater than a fee.
Making the most of speaking opportunities
If you prepare and deliver a great speech, you will automatically be established as an expert in the minds of your audience, and be seen as someone who can help them.
To make the most of the opportunity, you need to have a way to usher them into your sales funnel. If you are going to sell from the stage, make sure the event promoter is happy for you to do so.
If the promoter isn’t keen on you selling from the stage, a great tip is to offer your audience a free goody – such as an eBook, mp3 or video course – and ask for the business cards of everyone who wants one. You can also ask them to write ‘no emails' on their card if they don't want to be added to your mailing list.
Videoing your speech is also a good way to reach a wider audience by uploading it to your website and video sharing sites like YouTube. Again make sure the promoter is happy for you to do this before your 12-man camera team barge in and take over the arena!
Hire a stand
Another option is to hire a stand at an industry event. This way you can engage with people on a relaxed and personal level.
You will have to pay to hire the stand, however, and you may not appear as authoritative as if you have been invited to speak.
Also the list price for stands is usually way above what you should be paying, so be sure to negotiate them down.
What goes on tour can go viral
Going out and socialising after the gig can be a great move, but remember to keep your ‘Steady Eddie’ hat on. Shooting 20 Sambucas, wrapping your shirt around your head and air guitaring whilst balancing on a rickety table will make you memorable but probably not for the right reasons!
Whether you choose to go all out and speak at an event, or simply turn up to listen to the speakers and do some networking, these events represent fantastic places to generate new leads.
Simply mixing with people in your field will help you to integrate yourself further into the community, gain insight into how others are operating, and get your face known.
In my next post, we’ll be talking about taking this to the next level by creating your own event and becoming a promoter.