Are networking events an important part of your business?
If so, the last few months have been quite a shock to the system. The business I started 2020 with was absolutely dependent on local, in person networking, which is why the business I’m running as we start 2021 is a very different business.
There are fundamentally two types of networking: networking through events and networking through referrals.
Networking through referrals is built on building deeper relationships so that your networking connections will refer you to others. Your network is built one person at a time. This is more powerful and more resilient. It is also a lot more work and requires more technique. (If are looking to learn more about this strategy, the master is Matt Ward.)
Networking through events, on the other hand, is about going to places where people who want to make connections gather. It’s a less finessed strategy. You attend, meet people, and go from there.
There are some important details about how to do it right, enough that I wrote a book about it, but it is easier to blunder your way into and just figure it out.
It’s easier, that is, if there are events to attend.
I used to attend up to six networking events a week
I used to attend as many as six networking events in a week. It was a very effective way to meet a lot of great people and do a lot of business.
Most of my networking was local, but for those whose market is geographically broader, conferences served the same purpose. You would go to a convention center somewhere and meet people in your industry from all over.
You could make all kinds of connections. Many of those connections might turn into business in one way or another, if you cultivate the relationships effectively.
In the quarantine, there have been a great number of online summits and virtual conferences, but they are all based on the erroneous belief that the most important thing at a conference is the program.
The program is important. It is what makes you decide to attend a conference. It provides some great education and the chance to learn some great nuggets of knowledge.
Networking is key to any event
However, that is only part of the value. The rest of it is the pocket full of business cards you go home with. The dozen or two new connections that you can now follow up with. Much of the most important business at a conference happens in the hallways and the bars of the convention center.
Too many virtual events focus exclusively on the speakers to the total exclusion of the networking. Without a convention center, there’s no hallway and no bar.
Platforms like Zoom and most webinar platforms fail to provide an effective space for the audience to connect with one another.
One reason for this is that many events are built to be an opportunity to promote the speakers. The speakers share their expertise in exchange for the chance to earn the business of the audience. There’s nothing wrong with this, but the ability to connect peer to peer with other members of the audience is an important part of the value proposition.
I’ve always been focused on making connections for people. As far back as my first business out of college and before, I have always wanted to give people a way to build relationships with one another.
Live experience, virtual environment
When the opportunity presented itself to run a conference of my own, I wanted to make sure that the “hallway” networking opportunities were present.
In the initial plan, there were to be multiple Zoom channels, one of which would actually be called The Hallway in which attendees would be able to mingle freely.
I was then fortunate enough to connect with Nilay Modi of Slingshow. He provided me with a cutting edge platform that offers a virtual networking space that almost feels like walking through the convention hall.
There are a number of platforms like Slingshow, and I encourage event organizers to take a look. Networking events are one of those things where the more of them there are, the better off everyone is, especially those who organize the events.
If you are intrigued by the idea of a virtual conference designed to feel more like a real life conference, but without the four figure price tag, I encourage you to join us for Conference21. It’s only $21. The event is February 20-21, and there are three networking events (1/6, 1/29, 2/19) that are included in the membership. www.conference21.com
Come even if it is for no other reason than you want to see what we’re doing so you can copy it and run your own. In fact, if you’re interested in running your own conference, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to talk about how I can help.
The world needs more connection, and good virtual events are one way that will happen.