Monday, 1 October 2012

How to make the most of networking events

With the Ecommerce Expo set to get in full swing this week, businesses from around the country will be heading to London in order to take part in a number of meetings and seminars. With a number of large ecommerce stores taking part in the exhibition, it is a great way for small businesses to not only interact with each other in an attempt to begin growing their brand, but also gain some important insights in how to make their business a success.

So, if you are heading to the expo this week or are looking to attend another networking event in the future, how can you make the most of whole experience?

  • Meet as many people as you can - The whole part of the experience, in addition to gaining an insight into building a successful ecommerce store, is to increase your list of contacts by meeting as many people as possible. When attending these events, you should look to introduce yourself to anyone and everyone, letting them know who you are, what you do and how you could possibly help them down the line. This initial contact is what will help form the base for a professional relationship, creating the possibility of future transactions occurring.
  • Think ahead - To give yourself the best possible chance of making the event a success, it's important to think about a number of things ahead of time. As I said earlier, you will be meeting a lot of people and taking in a lot of new information. In order to remember it all you might want to take a pen and pad, to jot down a few pieces of information you may forget. In order to create a positive image, it is important to think about what you will wear and how you will act. As it is an ecommerce business event, you should look to wear business attire, which usually consists of a suit, shirt and tie. The next thing to consider is how you act. During these networking sessions, there is usually a bar and a buffet and while there is no harm is having a drink, you should refrain from having too many as the last thing you would want is to be remembered by these industry leading figures as the person who got too drunk and embarrassed themselves. Another thing you should bear is mind is that you should always try and have one hand free at all times. Meeting new people means shaking a lot of hands during introductions. What you don't want is to be introduced to some new and your then juggling your drink and food plate to make your hand free in order to shake theirs.
  • Make yourself memorable - Over the duration of the conference, everyone will have been introduced to a whole host of different people, often making it difficult to recall specific people once the event is over. When introducing yourself, you need to try and make yourself memorable (for the right reasons.) Think of it like you would if you were trying to sell products in your online store, the idea is to stand out from the crowd and literally sell your business in a way that appeals and entices your audience. If you don't have the conversational skills to wow the room, another simple way to help make you memorable is to create business cards. These cards are relatively inexpensive and can be given to people you meet as a form of reference once the conference is over. That way, whoever you meet will then be able to recall you and the conversation you had by looking at the card. When creating a business card, you should make sure it contains your name, address, store name and any contact details that they may need in the future to get in contact with you or find out more information regarding your business.
  • Attend as many seminars as possible - While the first part of a networking event is to actually network with all of the people attending the event, the second part is to give yourself a better insight into running an ecommerce store through the various semiars that are running. As each seminar is based on a different topic within the industry, each one will be educational in providing you with unique information regarding running an online store. Now before attending the event you may have looked at the schedule and decided to attend one or two seminars that look appealing and while it is always important to pick topics that you like, you should also look at the schedule from a purely business stance and pick out seminars that you believe will be beneficial to your business, whether they sound entertaining or not. You may attend a seminar and find 99% of it uninteresting and not helpful for your business, but that 1% of the seminar may actually hit home and make a real impact on how you run your business in the future. 
  • Ask questions - Although you may be attending a seminar for education purposes, there is no harm is   helping you stand out from other people and giving your business a plug in the process. At the end of the seminar there whoever is running that particular session will usually hold a Q&A session where people from the audience are able to ask questions. If you have a good question that you would like to ask, don't be shy and put your hand up. When it becomes your turn, be sure to stand up, let everyone see you and introduce yourself and what your business is. That way, for those few seconds, you instantly draw the attention of the room to you allowing both yourself and your business to gain exposure. 
  • Follow up - Once the event is over, your networking efforts shouldn't just end there. As you have met a number of new people, you don't want to simply leave it at that as they will most likely forget about you. A nice touch once the event is over is to send an email to all of the people you have met stating how it was good to meet them, you hope they had a great time at the expo and you look forward to possibly working with them in the future. This helps to do what I highlighted earlier in allowing you to stand out from everyone else and also create this initial contact which could develop into something more.
Carrying out these few simple steps ensures you make the most out of the experience and give you the best chance to increasing your brand awareness and allowing you to make a number of new contacts which may turn into future business partnerships. 

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