As business owners, we’re tempted to attend a myriad of networking events. Take part in all the events you find, and you’ll be very busy. Attend the wrong events, and you’ll be busy AND broke.
Early in my firm’s history, I looked at my calendar and started laughing. I was very busy . . . going to networking events. I wondered what my old bosses would think about my expense account. What would they say to me? They wouldn’t be laughing, that’s for sure!
An interesting thing happens to business owners when they network. They’re so glad to be around prospects that they forget events cost money–more money than they think. In addition to the event admission fee, there’s the time spent at the event, and the time traveling to and from the event. As a result, the potential positives of attending networking events can quickly turn into negatives–which decrease the profitability of this enjoyable activity.
As an executive on Wall Street, I was required to justify my monthly expenses. I had to add my guest’s name, firm, what we talked about, and/or the guest’s relationship to my work to each entry on my credit card statement.
Three years into owning my own business, I realized that I was wasting my time and hard-earned dollars “networking without a cause”. If I had been one of my bosses from my Wall Street days, I would have fired me! Instead, I started asking myself questions before I paid for any networking events.
Key Questions to Ask Before You Pay for Networking Events
My clients often ask me: “Which events should I attend?” “Should I sponsor this event?” “Should I pay for a table at this event?” Below are the questions I recommend they ask themselves to justify the time and money spent at networking events.
1. How many years has this event been available?
2. What were the demographics the last time the event was held?
3. How many of my ideal clients might be at the event?
4. What is my intention, or what results do I want, for attending this networking event?
5. How many people attend the event who can help my clients?
6. How many of my ideal clients (decision makers) attended last year?
7. Will a list of attendees be available before the networking event? (So that I can look up their websites and see who I may want to visit with?)
8. How many ideal clients do I think I can talk to while I’m there?
9. How often would I like to travel to (city/town) if I land clients who prefer in-person conversations?
10. Do I want to go to (city/town) for a trip or work-ation? (Especially important if the event is held more than an hour away.)
11. Is this the right time to attend this networking event? Or should I put it on my calendar for next year so that I can prepare for it before I attend?
12. Are there other opportunities in the city, at the event, with the organizers, or with my current clients that I can take advantage of?
Look at the networking events you’re currently attending or sponsoring. Ask yourself the questions above and determine if they are the best use of your time, talents, and money. If they aren’t, it’s probably time to let them go.
Finally, it’s common for home-based or virtual business owners to attend networking events because it gets them out of the office or because they personally enjoy the other attendees. If that’s the case for you, look to join a service organization like the Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, Elks, Knights of Columbus, or other such group. You’ll find people you enjoy there and give back to your community, too.