To network or not to network?

29th July 2016

By Walker Smith’s Group Managing Director, Matt Tyson.

Networking events – how many have you been invited to this week? Breakfast, lunch and evening clubs seem to be everywhere, but how do you know if they are a good use of your precious time?

If you are a contractor on an hourly rate then you know exactly how much 3 hours on a Tuesday morning will cost you. So beyond the lure of free coffee and bacon sandwiches, how can you tell the duds from the goldmines?

The honest answer is, it’s tricky.

I’ve been to some events not expecting anything and then coming away with a great contact that has gone on to be a client. And then conversely, I’ve gone to others with high expectations, been disappointed and left with nothing.

As a result of those experiences my vetting process now goes something like this:

I am interested in attending if:

  1. A potential client/contact that I’ve previously identified as a target will be there.

Note: Ask for the invite list for any event you are invited to.

  1. I’ll be the only person in my field attending.

 Note: I may feel I am actually better than the competition, but if a company is already established in the group, I don’t feel that these gatherings are the environment to best show that.

  1. The event can evidence they are serious about tracking results.

Note: If it’s an established group then ask for the stats on referrals, business written etc. If it’s a new group then what are their targets?

  1. I have been asked by an existing client/contact to attend.

Note: If this is the case, you may feel compelled to attend, but still do your due diligence to ensure you give yourself the best chance of it being a successful few hours for you.  

  1. It’s free! I’m only half joking here – if a group is serious about attracting new members and making it worthwhile for all, then they should allow you attend a couple of sessions before committing to any form of subscription.

Note: Don’t base your decision on one session – it could be uncharacteristically well attended for instance,  so make sure you go at least twice before parting with your hard earned cash.

The purpose of these kinds of events is to make contacts interested in buying whatever you’re selling, so if you don’t pre-vet before attending the event then you are essentially just leaving it to chance…or maybe you just like bacon sandwiches?