I went to three different networking events in the last 24 hours and it was a very interesting experience.
The first was held by the Portland Business Alliance (Chamber of Commerce) at the Rose Quarter. The networking and introductions began when I encountered a number of people outside the building who were trying to figure out how to get in! The Rose Quarter has a plethora of doors but only one was unlocked and unmarked. I fellt like like this was somehow a metaphor for networking but it was really too early in the morning to think that deeply.
We finally found the entrance and the room where the event was taking place. The meeting itself was run very efficiently and people seemed quite friendly and interested in talking. After a short breakfast of the usual doughnuts, bagels and coffee we were invited to sit down while Kathie Nelson from Networking For Busy People asked us to introduce ourselves one at a time in 30 seconds or less.
We were then given a number and invited to take a seat at the table with the same number along with four other people. There was a timer on the table and we each had two minutes to tell the others about what we did and the types of customer we were looking for. After we did that we moved to another table with different people and did it all over again.
I love meeting people from other companies and I was not disappointed as I met some very interesting people including a guy with a Wine and Chocolate business, a lady from a Swedish office furniture company (not Ikea, their stuff is actually made in Sweden as opposed to the Far East) called Kinnarps, and a people photographer called Joni Shimabukuro. There were also people from some larger companies like Comcast and Qwest.
So how did it go? Well I can’t say I made any definite leads but you never know. To make it work, you have to attend regularly so that people get to know you and feel comfortable recommending you. There are a few other learnings to be had:
- Bring lots of business cards
- Make sure you have a good 30 second pitch focusing on who are your customers, what problems do you solve and how are you different. To do that in 30 seconds you have to be focused to distill the key elements of what you are about. In the two minutes that you have at the tables, you can expand a bit more but you need to be clear or people won’t be able to know how to help you.
- People did seem to be genuinely interested in what I did
- Be prepared to listen. Networking is not about you selling something it is about building trust and wanting to help others. It then becomes more natural that they will help you.
- Don’t bring bags, coats etc because you will be moving tables and they get in the way
I enjoyed my experience at the Portland Business Alliance networking event and would probably go again. You can attend two events as a guest (the membership director, Jeff Jordan, will bring you as his guest) but after that you have to join the Alliance. You can find more details, including a calendar of events at the Portland Business Alliance website.
At the beginning of this blog I mentioned that I visited three networking events. In the next few days I will write about the others and how they compare. So, next up will be:
- A review of the networking tips and tricks given by Kathie Nelson that was held after the main networking event at the Portland Alliance and
- A description of two events put on by the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, “Business After Hours” held at Pacific Lifestyle Homes and the Leads East breakfast meeting held at Gustav’s.