The answer should be: YES!
However, a lot of people (myself included) feel like they don’t gain anything from going to networking events.
When I used to go the translator’s association networking events, I would always think: how will I ever get business out of this, when the other attendees are doing exactly the same?
That was not exactly true, because the only thing we had in common was moving content from one language into another. Everything else was different. How so? For one, the languages were different (Spanish, Dutch, French, German, Russian, etc.), then there was a difference in style (translation or interpretation), and lastly the topics were different (medical, business, legal, technical, education or general). But the big question was: how could we get business from eachother? How could we each benefit from this monthly ‘networking’ event? Isn’t that the purpose of networking? I didn’t know the answer then and after attending the events for several years, I gave up mainly because I was not getting any business, but I also became more involved with nontranslation activities. Yes, the events resulted in getting over my initial shyness (being the webmaster helped too), meeting my peers, getting to know them and even make friends, but I wasn’t getting my “ROI” (return on investment) 🙂
Last week, when I read an article on Entrepreneur.com about the very same topic, it dawned on me that (unknowingly) I had been doing some of the things recommended in the article. Now I understand that the most important purpose for networking is to build relationships, and this can evolve into business later on. [Yes it’s true, because I have worked with some of my peers on projects I had acquired!]
Here are the three main points of the article:
- Limit the number of contacts per event. You don’t have to meet everyone and their mother. Five to 10 seems to be a good number, especially if you’re going to several events per week or month. It’s not about the quantity but the quality of your contacts.
- Spend five to 10 minutes talking to and (especially) listening to each person. You don’t have to hear their whole lifestory (or tell them yours), but you want to show interest and make an impression. That makes it easy to remember when you call them afterwards.
- Write notes on the backs of people’s cards. If you are collecting 10 or more cards per event, you will not remember who you talked to by reading their card. How often have you looked at a card in your collection and had no inkling of who the person was? [I did plenty of times and even keywords I would use were not enough to trigger my memory!]
A few things to remember when networking:
- You don’t want to ‘sell’ anything to the people you have just met, but rather try to find out how to help them if you can.
- You want them to remember you, being different than the rest, so have your own identity.
A great book I read on the first step of networking is: “How to Work a Room” by Susan RoAne. It’s funny and very easy to understand.
The author’s website is http://www.susanroane.com/
I hope this article helped a bit to look at networking from a different angle, one that may offer better results for your business. Good luck!