I’m very picky when it comes to attending network events.
Even though most of the marketing I do for my freelance copywriting business is done by direct mail and Pay-Per-Click ads, I also like to attend live, local networking events. It gets me out of the house to meet local business owners and entrepreneurs, build relationships, and get some business.
As a freelancer, I have to carefully balance getting client work with doing client work. I find I have to be picky about what events to attend because that means time away from actually doing work. I have a few guidelines I go by for networking events and I thought you might find them very helpful.
1) I Do My Research
My science background has taught me to be a thorough researcher. Research is the foundation of my copywriting success and networking events are no different.
When I see an event I might want to attend, I spend some time researching the organizers and speaker. If there is a Facebook page or other online networking resource, I may chat briefly with others who normally attend. I ask about the format and how many people are usually there. This helps me know what to expect if I decide to go.
Now I’m not a snob, but through the years I’ve figured out which types of events ultimately yield work for me and which don’t – I’m careful to attend only those that I think will be valuable.
Depending on my workload, I may wait until the last minute to RSVP so I don’t lose the event fee (if there is one) if I suddenly get swamped with work and can’t go (the life of a freelancer!)
2) I Prepare Myself
There’s nothing worse than someone asking you for your business card and you don’t have any!
I try to never run out of cards but if I am short, I’ll come up with a quick alternative until I can get more. For example, I’ll write a mini introduction and sales letter (half-page) to hand out.
This little gem can actually be more effective than a business card because I have a chance to provide information about me and my copywriting and consulting services. I can even include a special offer specifically for those in attendance at the event.
Many times, business cards just get thrown into a pile or, worse, tossed into the trash so it’s always good to do something that gets you noticed…you might want to hand out a pen or other promotional item along with your business card.
3) I Practice My Elevator Speech
Now, if you’re not familiar with an elevator speech, it’s a very short “verbal blurb” about what you do. It’s called an elevator speech because you want to be able to tell someone on an elevator what you do by the time the elevator stops on the next floor and you lose your captive audience.
Because not everyone understands what copywriters do (some people think copywriting has to do with “copyrighting”), I have a well-honed elevator speech. This way I can help others understand, very quickly, not only what I do but, more importantly, what I can do for them.
If you don’t have an elevator speech, I highly recommend you create one, write it down, practice it out loud and try it out on your family and friends. Don’t worry, it may take you several revisions to get it just right.
4) I Set A Goal For The Event
I’m a goal-setter by nature but I’m also a bit of an introvert. It’s easy for me to attend an event and only talk with the people right around me.
Before arriving, I always set a goal that I’m going to talk to a certain number of people. That might be 10 or 20 depending on how much “open networking” time is allotted.
Having a goal helps me move around and introduce myself to new and different people. The goal is not strict and I always keep in mind that events are to build relationships. If I start talking to a potential client then the goal may change.
The point is to challenge myself to meet as many people as possible while taking the time to build rapport. That person may not need a copywriter (yet!) but they might know somebody that does.
5) I Follow Up After The Event
You may hear advice from some people saying you should follow up with everyone you meet at an event. I know that can be overwhelming!
I set a goal to touch base with just a few people from the event – either through a personal note or e-mail. If I’ve committed to calling someone, I definitely will. This keeps it simple and doesn’t bog down my daily “to-do” list.
I also evaluate how the event was and decide whether or not to return to that event. Some experts say you should go to an event several times before deciding whether to stick with it. I do go back if I feel there is potential for work. If not, I move on.
I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules – you just have to find what works for you.
I hope these network event tips are helpful to you. I find I enjoy events much more if I plan ahead and set goals for them.
Share your network event experiences below – I’d really like to hear your comments.
Keep it up,
“The Professor of High Response”