Introduce yourself and ask others to introduce you.
Now that you have shifted your networking attitude (It’s not about ME. It IS about YOU.), let’s put this approach into practice. Consider an upcoming networking event held by an industry or professional association where you plan to meet potential referral sources.
Here is a pre-event marketing strategy that will help you will maximize your attendance at the event, keeping the focus on YOU, meaning the movers and shakers of the organization.
After you register for the event, visit the website of the membership organization. Assemble a list of the officers, committee chairs and board members, including their email addresses. If an email is not readily available, you can send a connection request via their LinkedIn profile.
One week before the event, write an introductory email or LinkedIn message to each leader with the subject line: Will you attend the Networking Cocktail on January 12? Describe your background and note your work with a related business, as shown in this example:
Your name came to my attention as an officer of the Local Accountants Organization.
I am a Public Relations professional who specializes in advising accountants.
Recently, I advised Excellent Accountants on various projects in media relations and client newsletters. I wish to learn more about the Local Accountants Organization and how, if I become a member, I might get involved in your activities.
Perhaps we can chat at the Networking Event; I’m excited to meet you and your colleagues.
The leaders of the organization will be thrilled to hear from you. More than half of them will respond with a big welcome. Why? Every business group wants to bring in new members, especially people who offer valuable, specialized experience that would benefit the members and the organization itself. Your email inspires confidence that you are a professional worth welcoming into the fold.
Reply warmly to the notes you receive. Indicate that you will wear a distinctive article of clothing, making it be easy for you both to find each other in a crowded room. Perhaps a woman wears an orange jacket and a man has a green tie. Your new contact is now equipped to seek you out at the event.
One hour before the event, review the names and LinkedIn profiles of the people you contacted and take notes on mutual areas of interest. This annotated list is your game plan.
When you arrive, ask the person at the registration desk where to find one or two of the people on your list. Remember to focus on YOU, not yourself, in conversation. Start by asking about the membership organization itself. Find out why they joined. Learn how they contribute to the group’s success. Only discuss yourself and your professional focus in passing. After you chat and collect their business cards, ask to meet one of the other leaders on your list.
Your new contact will gladly introduce you; this enhances their own stature in the other officer’s eyes. Imagine the group’s president thinking, “That Mary, she’s doing great, bringing in new members!” Review the names on your list and work the room to meet and be introduced to as many of the officers, board members and committee chairs as possible.
Afterwards, send a follow-up email and perhaps customize a LinkedIn connection request. Note how good it was to meet in person after your email correspondence. Say how much you enjoyed learning about the organization. If you decide to become a member, tell the contact they persuaded you to join. Of course, you are excited to see them at future events.
You should also write to anyone you did not meet, because they were chatting with others or did not attend. Let them know you joined the association. Suggest a one-on-one coffee chat, to learn how you might get involved in the group.
Your attitude and focus on YOU — the contacts and the association itself — will demonstrate that you align with the group. You share interests in the benefits of membership and future activities. This pre-event marketing practice will enhance your networking success and help you build a larger base of potential referral sources and, perhaps, even net some clients.
This Month’s Tip
At industry and professional membership associations, the key contacts are:
- Program Chair: he is always eager for new workshops to keep members advised of trends and best practices, so propose a timely topic;
- Communications Chair: she needs to fill the newsletter with engaging articles, so offer to write an insightful contribution;
- Membership Chair: she knows everyone, so ask which members might find you a valuable resource;
- Chair of any Committee, such as Finance, Marketing or Legal, that aligns with your profession;
- Of course, President, Past President, President-elect: they have an agenda and you can help them achieve it.
The officers of membership associations are eager to meet prospective members, who offer new ideas for programs and initiatives, plus specialized backgrounds of a related profession. Let’s build your referral network by identifying some groups where you can get involved. Contact me at 212.677.5770 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the second in a series of three newsletters about Networking. The first discussed an attitude of focusing on YOU, the person to whom you might be a resource and who, in turn, might be a resource for your contacts. The third will discuss get-to-know-you problem and solution questions that engage networking contacts.
Click here to read prior issues of this newsletter.