I still remember my first trip as an entrepreneur to the event. I went there with my team. At first we split and at the end of day one I asked everyone to show how many business cards they got. I was surprised. My stack was a few times larger compared to the 3 others. Then I understood the way I work is not that obvious to other people. My team got instructions and by the end of the next day they had comparable results.
How did we do it? How do we find new clients? This is a question that’s often is repeated before conferences like Wolves Summit. In this resource you will learn some of the best Wolves practices using industry events.
You might be having mixed feelings, because maybe you hate the form. You do need to approach people and talk to them. This isn’t always convenient and you may feel blocked. Or once you stick to one person, you’d rather stay with them for longer. But it happens the other way around, too. You are stuck with someone you don’t necessarily want to talk to at that moment and you don’t know, how to end the conversation. We’re going to show you, what to say and how to behave. The knowledge is especially useful, if you work in sales.
STEP 1. Planning and Preparations
Remember to choose events, which have a well-profiled target group and preferably a tool to schedule meetings before the conference. Planning ahead saves a huge percent of execution time. If you don’t want to lose time during events and walk around pointlessly, plan very meticulously:
- people or brands with priority 1, those you have to speak to and you don’t leave the event until you’ve done it.
- people or brands with priority 2 , it would be good to speak to them, so you need to get at least part of these contacts.
Find information about all applications or sub-events that can be planned only for chosen participants or those, who pay extra. If you can pay the difference and appear where your selected clients are – do it. Personally I’ve done it many times before. I paid almost 500 euros extra while I was already at a conference in San Diego. And just one contact I got there has brought me hundreds of thousands zlotys throughout 3 years and up to this day.
Always check, if the organizers provide a matchmaking app to schedule meetings. For example Wolves Summit’s matchmaking tool lets participants set up meetings with relevant people before the conference even begins. So far during all Wolves conferences people scheduled 14303 1:1 meetings. It saves their time and maximizes the effects at the event. The attendees can set up even up to 60 1:1 meetings that last 15 minutes. All that in just 2 conference days. Remember that the right preparation gives you huge results.
Additionally set yourself a specific target, how many contacts you want to gain. Our mind works a lot better if it knows, what results it’s going for. But don’t make it 10 contacts.
Once you’ve set your goal, you need to check, how much time you have and on average how long can you speak to one person to fulfil it. Of course, each group and client type may require different time limit for a conversation. Nonetheless, it ought to be 5-15 minutes, not an hour.
If the event provides a matchmaking application (scheduling 1:1 meetings), buy a ticket that allows you to use it. Then, reserve some time to send out as many invitations to other participants as you can. Remember to filter out the profiles you are interested in.
You need to prepare a good message you’ll be sending – a short 2 or 3-sentence pitch why you want to meet up and talk. Additionally make sure you complete your own profile fully and completely, add a description, so that others can find you easily.
Barbara Piasek, CEO Wolves Gate
She has over 10 years of experience gained as a manager in international corporations such as: Procter&Gamble, RWE, BMW Polska, Orange, Empik. She’s the co-founder of a company organizing Wolves Summit – one of the biggest tech events for startups, investors and corporate representatives in Central-Eastern Europe and See Bloggers – the biggest festival for internet creators in Poland with 28 mln online reach, as well as the Sales Gate brand dedicated to sales education.
STEP 2. Networking
You’re at the event. How do you begin a conversation? If matchmaking is available, it’s simple. But suppose you don’t have the tool. The basic rule here is: don’t complicate it in your head. Most of those people probably don’t feel comfortable networking, just like you.
What to say, when you approach a person:
- How do you like the conference? What do you think about the conference?
- Why did you come here? What’s your main goal?
- Where did you come from?
- What do you do?
Of course you can use another sentence in different situation. For example recently, when I was at a conference and an evening party with open bar, the queue was huge, all you needed to do was ask the person standing next to you and waiting for the bartender “What are you ordering?”. I helped them get their drink faster and could start the conversation. Only with this simple sentence I met a dozen new people.
After you ask what the person does, you’ll most probably get a question “So, what do you do?”. This is where you start your short pitch (2-3 sentences). You end it with a question “Is it interesting to you?”. Then you say “Let’s exchange business cards”. If it’s interesting, tell you’ll get in touch after the conference. If not, exchange business cards anyway and say “Let’s exchange business cards. Who knows, maybe I’ll need such services/products in the future”
How to behave, when you approach a group (min. 3 people, it’s harder to stick to 2 people focused on the conversation):
- You approach, stand next to the group and ask “Can I join?”
- If the group is bored with the conversation, the focus will transfer to you immediately and you can take control by asking the questions above
- If the group is engaged in the talk, just join the discussion by commenting some statements
- If only part of the group is engaged in the conversation, it will most likely split and you will start talking to the other part
- Never leave the group without saying “So let’s exchange business cards”
The big advantage of groups is that you collect business cards much faster.
STEP 3: How to end a conversation:
If during the conversation you tell that you came here for networking, it’s easier to end the discussion by saying “Okay, I’m going to go now. I wish you a successful conference. I’ll talk to you later”. If you haven’t had the chance to say why you came here during the chat, all you need to respond is “You know, for me the conference is above all a great occasion to meet people from the industry. I’m very happy I got to meet you. I’m now going to go, so I’ll talk to you after the conference/see you later during the conference/expo”.
It really is that simple, you just need to overcome the inside voice and fear that’s stopping you. It’s easier to sink into your smartphone and pretend to be busy, so you don’t have to speak to anyone. But it won’t give you clients – it just burns your time.
Be proactive, keep stepping out of your comfort zone until it becomes a habit of yours. Good luck and happy networking!