In earlier articles I have written about selecting a networking club or –event, depending on the average type of visitors (Freelancers, smaller SME, larger SME, …). Next to this selection, you should also select or create some networking opportunities to deepen the relationship with your professional contacts.
A few times a year you have the opportunity to attend very large networking events with 500 to even over 1000 attendees. Think of new year’s drinks organized by the Chamber of Commerce. Despite the large number of attendees your evening will probably limit itself to shaking a few hands and handing out a few business cards. Did you manage to strike a few good conversations ? Well done.
If you want more meaningful conversations with your contacts, you should try smaller networking events. This explains the success of local businessclubs and the low threshold ‘Open Coffee’ events which are taking place just about everywhere these days.
But you don’t have to stop there. I have been building my professional network for 10 years now and I have noticed that the best and warmest relationships are those in which I have invested time and effort to really get to know them. You can take this as far as you want, but I will give you 5 powerful and original examples :
- A friend of mine bought a few business seats at one of Belgium’s major soccer teams. For each game he invites a few of his networking contacts to watch the game together. He makes use of the pre-game dinner to have a good conversation and build the relationship.
- A lot of people hate walking into a large networking event alone. One of my best friends in the UK noticed this problem when she attended large events in London and decided to act on the problem. Stella started organizing pre-event meetups in a nearby pub. She would give the attendees a warm welcome and share a drink or a bite together, before walking into the main event together. This ‘Ice-Breaker event’ was very popular !
- I have often invited people to meet up before attending an event. Just have a look at the guestlist and see if there is anyone you would like to get to know a bit better. Or maybe someone has a business activity you are interested in. Just meet up for a coffee or a glass of wine 30 to 60 minutes before the event and deepen the relationship.
- Do you often travel a considerable distance to an event ? Why not find out of there are more people from your area attending the event and invite them to travel together. While carpooling you have the opportunity to get to know each other and build your relationship.
- It’s not that weird to visit other members of your businessclub. I have visited multiple contacts at their company and each time I received a very warm welcome. Coffee and a ‘grand tour’ was always included.
Because a 1on1 meeting (1-op-1 in Dutch) still sounds a bit weird, I was thinking about renaming this kind of networking opportunity. One of my contacts proposed to call it a ‘Closed Coffee’, as an opposite of the popular ‘Open Coffee’ events.
Not bad. For me with one sugar and some cream please.