In areas as competitive as the financial markets, relationships are everything.
Relationships help you to earn credibility, recognition, and recurring opportunities for your business—for months and years down the line.
And there’s nowhere better for building relationships than in-person networking events.
Learn how best to prepare for a networking event and expand the opportunities for your business.
Have a goal in mind
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make with networking events is going in blind.
To some degree you should expect the unexpected—because anything can happen at events like these—but this is no excuse for lack of preparation.
The truth is, if you attend an event or conference without an ideal outcome to achieve, or an ideal person to connect with, you’re limiting your potential for growth.
This is especially important if you only have a limited window of time to attend.
Planning and preparation equals focus and efficiency.
So don’t go in without a game plan. You’ll get consistently better results from having a goal in mind—even if you only have a couple of hours.
Get a head start
Do you know one of the most powerful tools in business development?
It’s not being an expert conversationalist. Or having an encyclopaedic knowledge of DeFi regulations.
When someone is familiar with who you are, they’re much more receptive to what you have to say.
That means when you meet them in person, you have a head start when it comes to building a relationship.
In today’s digital world, there are plenty of ways to get on someone’s radar.
So use them.
If your target account is on LinkedIn, send them a connection request. Look at their profile. Comment on their posts.
If they don’t have LinkedIn, see if you can get hold of their email address.
Reach out to them (politely of course) to let them know you’re both attending the same event, and you thought it made sense to get in touch.
These things may seem insignificant, but even the smallest interactions make a big difference in warming up that initial conversation.
Be patient, build rapport
It’s important to not get so focused on the end goal that you overlook the basics of relationship building.
It’s connection first, business second.
The key things to achieve when speaking with someone at a networking event:-
- Make them feel comfortable
- Make the conversation about them
This isn’t a sales pitch, you’re talking to a person. Most of us need easing into a conversation.
One of the best ways to create that ease and comfort is by asking expected questions.
- “How did you get into your line of work?”
- “What do you enjoy most about it?”
- “Have you been to this event before?”
It’s not fancy, but it works.
These are questions people find non-threatening and low-pressure. Which helps them feel comfortable in your presence, rather than on edge.
Asking your target account about their greatest business challenges right off the bat will feel like more an interrogation than a conversation starter.
And it’s a surefire way to get off on the wrong foot.
The two-step formula to building rapport
Social psychology research has found we evaluate people socially based on two perceived traits: warmth and competence.
We judge others to be warm if they show positive intentions towards others, and if we deem their actions to be friendly, kind, trusting and empathetic.
We see people as competent based on their ability to demonstrate intelligence, skill, or courage in their convictions.
So, what’s this got to do with networking events in the financial markets?
Well, these same traits have been shown to influence significant professional outcomes, such as the hiring of employees, and allocation of tasks.
Which means they can also help you convert your next client.
To radiate warmth, be generous with praise, be curious, and be genuine. And when you find common ground with someone, don’t be afraid to explore it further.
To show competence, do some research ahead of the event. Investigate some recent industry news and trends in the market of your target account, or even into the people who run the event.
Then use your skills, knowledge and experience to offer your unique take on it all—granted it falls naturally into the conversation of course.
This is how you show people you’re astute, and that you know your stuff.
Moving on to business
So, let’s say things are going well.
You’ve made a connection with the person you expected to meet (or perhaps someone else), and conversation’s been flowing smoothly.
You’ve built rapport, demonstrated your warmth and competence, and you feel that it makes sense for you to work together—or at least exchange details.
When it comes to exchanging contact details at the event, sometimes it’s better to collect details than give them.
Asking for their details puts control of the follow-up in your hands, and of course it comes with the added benefit of not seeming too self-possessed.
While lots of people still exchange details the traditional way, using business cards, more digitally-driven ways to do this are emerging all the time.
In the financial markets in particular, more and more people are foregoing business cards in favour of scanning LinkedIn QR codes.
Here’s a page on how LinkedIn members can use QR codes to connect if you’re interested in learning more on this.
Master the follow up
People who have the most success with follow ups do so for one reason—they have it down to a fine art.
It’s a delicate balance. You want to allow your prospect the space to do things at their own pace, without losing momentum.
Practice is key here. The more you do this, the more you will refine your follow-up process, until you’ve got something close to a repeatable formula.
You might follow up by sending them a card or giving them a call, or perhaps having a series of helpful or interesting emails lined up.
How you do it is up to you, but the end goal is to get a meeting in the calendar.
Then, once you’re in the meeting, you can negotiate for their business.
How to get the most out of a networking event: key takeaways
To summarize, if you want to get the most out of your next networking event or business conference, here are some things to focus on:-
- Set a goal beforehand; you’ll be more successful if you turn up with an ideal contact to connect with, or an ideal outcome to achieve
- Build familiarity; this will give you a head start when it comes to establishing relationships
- It’s connection first, business second; be patient and commit to building rapport with your prospects—making them feel at ease is a priority
- Demonstrate warmth and competence; these are the two most influential factors in making a strong impression
- Master the follow up; collect details rather than give them out to put the follow up in your hands. Don’t be overzealous, but don’t lose momentum.
Not only do we know how to get the most out of networking events, we help coordinate them too. If you’re looking to build new relationships within your industry, drop us a line. We’d be happy to support you.