7 tips for choosing the right networking events as a small business HR consultantNetworking is a key part of the marketing model our consultants use to get small business clients, and especially at the beginning, they go to lots of different events in their area, of all types. This is important to help build their confidence at talking about themselves and what they are all about, and also ensures that in that (hopefully short!) period where they aren’t swimming in clients, they are busy and doing what they can to get themselves ‘out there’.

But pretty quickly, we encourage them to ‘hone’ their marketing activities a bit, to ensure their time and money are both spent as effectively as possible. To do this, it’s important to be able to choose the right networking events to attend. Here are seven things we encourage consultants to consider when choosing what events to go to and which to skip.

Know who you need to meet

A key part of our marketing training with consultants is making sure they know exactly who they need to meet at networking events (clue: it isn’t necessarily potential clients!), what kind of person, what background they are likely to have, and where they are likely to ‘hang out’.

Once you know who you need to meet and develop a relationship with as part of your marketing, you can narrow your networking down to those events with a reasonably good concentration of those people.

Think about format

Networking events, particularly those which are regular groups, usually have some kind of set format to them. Although stepping out of your comfort zone is good (my ideal networking event would be me and the dog, however this is not generally effective networking for business purposes…!), if you really don’t like the format of a particular event, then unless it’s really good for other reasons, it might be worth skipping. Your unease might come across and therefore reduce the effectiveness of the event anyway.

It may not be a case of you feeling uncomfortable with the format, it might be that you just don’t think it’s going to be effective for your particular products and services, or an effective use of your time. One of the first networking events I went to was a sit-down lunch, for about 40 people. There was no physical space or time and opportunity for mixing, you just sat down at the table. I had a nice lunch and lovely conversations with the four or five people within range of my seat, none of whom were ever going to be useful to me. That’s not an effective networking format, and I didn’t go again.

Time of day

If, like many of our consultants, one of the reasons you are working on a self-employed basis is to get a goof work-life balance and fit work better around family life, you may find that the time of day some events happen is just going to be too difficult to commit to.

That’s ok, and it’s important not to lose sight of why you’re doing this. There should be plenty of events which fit better with your circumstances and allow you to market yourself effectively without compromising your family priorities.

Cost

You probably have a budget for marketing, including networking events (and if not, why not?!), so your chosen events need to be affordable within this. But don’t be fooled into thinking that doing cheap or free events only will be as effective. Some free events are really good, but some paid-for events, if they have the right kind of attendees, right format and right content can be fantastic and more than pay for themselves with referrals.

Interesting content

Many events involve some kind of speaker, or activity, so if you pick the right ones, you can not only meet good people and form useful connections but you can come away with fantastic and invigorating ideas for developing your business; excellent increased knowledge about an area of business you find interesting; or at least have had a really great time! The idea for developing the face2faceHR franchise came from a really supportive networking session, for which I am eternally grateful!

Welcoming environment

It is a sad fact that some networking events aren’t particularly welcoming. Obviously you can’t necessarily tell this before you go, however if you get a welcoming vibe from social media beforehand, or a really good organiser getting in touch with you in advance of the event, that might be a good clue as to it being somewhere newbies will be made to feel comfortable.

Is it working for you?

This really relates to events you already go to frequently. Reassess your networking regularly. If an event hasn’t proved productive in terms of referrals, you should probably be spending your time, effort and money elsewhere. Don’t keep going out of habit!

 

If you’d like to find out more about setting up your own HR consultancy with bags of support, do get in touch.