What’s the best way to network when you go to a conference and you’re meeting people for the first time? Or maybe you see them every few months. A different strategy is needed for these less regular events compared to weekly BNI meetings.
It’s still true that the overall plan should be to move from visibility to credibility to profitability. However, with one-off or less regular events we need to focus on visibility, whereas at BNI the emphasis is on gradually building credibility.
When you attend a one-off networking event, the key is to find people whom you feel you have something in common with, and if it appears to be mutual, set up a time to talk after the conference. Here’s what Dr Ivan Misner has to say.
I have gone to many, many conferences, and have met people where it was obvious that there was something that we had mutual interest in. And I have said, “Hey, do you mind if I connect with you in a couple of weeks?” Generally, they say yes, absolutely. That contact helps to move it from visibility to credibility. It doesn’t happen immediately, but it helps to start with that credibility. That is the beautiful thing about technology today.
I really believe that technology allows us to flatten the communication hierarchy and to speak with people much more effectively. Some of the ways that I have done that is by asking them if they would like to be connected on Facebook, LinkedIn or ecademy, so that now they are seeing some of my other stuff, and they are becoming more aware of BNI, and the same with them.
At the very least, with people that I maybe didn’t have a chance to have an agreed upon follow through, but that I am interested in, I will drop them a note or give them a call and say that I’d like to talk further. Is it okay if I send them some information on some of my articles or something, not trying to make a sale, but to send them some basic information about what I am doing so they can move from visibility to credibility. Does that make sense?
I think that’s it. BNI members, in the BNI context, remember that it is all about establishing the credibility. You are pretty much past visibility after a few months in BNI. Everybody in that chapter, other than new members and visitors, knows who you are. So you are past the visibility stage. It is really about going deep with the credibility. With some networking organizations that you might belong to, it might be the visibility stage, and it’s about pushing it from visibility to credibility. But it’s really about getting people to know who you are.
So you kind of have to figure out, you know, what is this network like and what are they focused on? Are they focused on visibility or credibility? With BNI, it’s about the credibility pushing to profitability. But it varies from group to group, and that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good thing. Chambers, I highly recommend chambers of commerce. But you are going to start from the visibility stage there.
So understand what you are getting into. Be patient. It’s not a get rich quick scheme. Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting.