If you regularly attend meetings focused on getting people in the equine industry together for whatever reason (breed, discipline, charity), that's good. But do you know how to work those meetings to improve your business? Here are five simple networking tips to help you make the most out of industry meetings.
Networking is work. Don’t forget that. Some people make it look easy, and they have no fear talking to people they don’t know and marketing themselves or their businesses in the regular course of conversation.
Before you go to the meeting, make sure you know where you are going and what the schedule is. Know who the leaders are and who the speaker is. Take plenty of business cards, a notebook, and a pen. Make sure your business cards are easily accessible (don’t make yourself have to dig around for them when you meet someone).
If there is someone you want to meet or talk to specifically, write that person’s name down in your notebook or set a reminder on your phone. Even better, connect with that person before the meeting and set a time and place to meet before, during, or after the event.
When you meet someone and get a business card or write down their contact information in your notebook, jot down something else about them (what you discussed, something they are passionate about or involved with, their horse’s name, shared gym membership, people you know in common) to give you something to chat about next time.
2. Arrive Early
If there is a “cocktail hour” or social time before the meeting, get there when it starts. Don’t get there halfway through. Usually there isn’t enough time to get around to everyone at these meetings, so you need to give yourself plenty of time.
Some people at this point are thinking: “I usually get a drink and stand around looking at everyone else talking. That’s really no fun!” That’s no one’s fault but your own. If you are a professional, then act like one. If you truly have social fears, enlist the help of an outgoing friend or colleague to walk around with you to help you break the ice.
3. Position Yourself Strategically
Sound a bit like overkill? You’re wrong! Stand by the door, that way you can see everyone who is coming and going, and if there is someone you specifically want to meet, you won’t miss that person!
When you pick your seat or table, do so with purpose. Don’t just plop down with some friends. If you met someone that you think could be useful to you or your business or vice versa, ask if you can sit with them. Otherwise pick a table near the front of the room and facing the podium. The reason behind this is that you not only can see and hear better, but the more involved people of the group tend to sit at the front tables.
4. Divide Your Time Wisely
You should divide your time at the meeting so you spend about half with people you know and half with people you don’t know. Time yourself if that presents a problem.
It’s important to spend time with people you know and re-establish those bonds and friendships. It’s equally important to meet new people and start establishing new bonds and friendships.
5. Follow Up
Within 24 hours of the meeting or event, follow up with people you talked to at the event. You also should send emails or make calls to those people you saw and wanted to talk to, but didn’t have time at the gathering.
“I don’t want to do that!” you might complain. “What do I say?”
That’s why you had your notebook and pen. If you met Susie and she is working on that organization’s committee for the spring horse show, send her an email and volunteer or ask how you can help. If you met Joe and he’s looking for a place to board his horses and that’s what you do, call him and invite him out to see your facility.
Networking isn’t easy, but it can be profitable for you personally and professionally. Treat it like part of your job, then enjoy the fruits of your labor!