Business networking for CEO is one of the most effective marketing and prospecting method you can use to grow your business. But if done incorrectly, it can be harmful to your business.
Business networking is a lot more than giving out business cards. It is about building trust. For CEO the networking is a lot more than meeting people. It is about connecting with the right people.
Business networking is a lot more than collecting phone numbers. It is about staying in touch, about listening, addressing needs and looking for opportunities all at the same time.
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It is how as a CEO we approach relevant business networking sessions that makes it work for us. Networking is about being authentic and genuine, building relationships and trust, and helping others. Although increased sales is the end goal, don’t participate in business networking to sell.
Build relationships and sales will follow naturally. People have to trust you before they’ll do business with you or refer you. Relationship capital is an immensely valuable part of business success. Put your energy, intention and attention on business networking.
Let's talk about inviting people to your business events in this article. The tips that I am going to share later applies to not only business related events but also normal events as well.
If you have tried inviting people to come for your business events be it networking or talks, you will agree with me that it is not easy to get the numbers especially if you are inviting business man and women because they prioritize almost all events according to ROI (Return On Investment) - if your event does not justify their time to be there, then most probably you will have a poor turnout.
Based on my experiences and observations from the other very experienced networkers in my business circle, I realize that there are only three things that you need to do it probably in order to have a high turn-up rate for your events.
1. Is this what they need?
I do not invite every person I meet to my business events such as BNI. If the first thing you meet someone new is to ask him / her to come to your event, then this is something that you may want to stop and re-think on.
Listening is by far the most important skill we need to learn and refine (not only for business). Thus, the first thing before we even start inviting is to ask relevant questions. For example, if you are holding an event for Internet Entrepreneurs to come together and network, you need to ask and assess if the person you are talking to has this area of interest.
A good question you can start off is, 'Have you been to other business networking events?'. This question not only help you understand them better but also make them reveal if they think they needed such exposure. You will be surprised that some business owners will answer this question admitting that they should go around networking more often! Now, do you think if you invite them to your event at this point of time, the person will be far more receptive and appreciate your invitation?
2. Persistent - the additional effort that makes the difference
A lot of invitations I receive nowadays rarely exceeds more than 3 times. If you are holding an event that happens regularly (for example, monthly), you must be persistent and keep inviting no less than 7 times. Most of the times, people are kind enough to tell you that they have other commitments and couldn't attend your event. If this is the case, invite them again when your next event is coming up. This kind of followup is the key that makes the difference.
I remembered I was inviting a business associate of mine who has rejected me no less than 5 to 10 times (I lost count...) because of his usual morning commitments. One day he finally make it to my BNI (Business Network International) event and thank me for inviting him to attend such an eye-opening event. I think sometimes we just have to be persistent especially if you see that your event adds value to the others.
3. Reminders - the secret to 100% turnouts
I never know that a simple reminder can make such a big difference until I came across a material by Dr. Ivan Misner who mentions that reminders are important and we should remind the people who have agreed to come for our events one or two days before the event.
It can be frustrating sometimes if you see that the person you have invited did not turn up in the end just because they forgot. Hence, a simple reminder either through phone or SMS can be very helpful. At the time of posting, there are already systems in place to send out automated reminders to people who have registered for events. One company that can help you to leverage this technology is FlexiSoft - managed by Norman Chin from BNI Singapore, Raffles Chapter.
Identify which networking events you should attend. Pick groups that’ll help you achieve your goals. Find venues that make sense for your business. When you register for an event, schedule it like a meeting.
Determine how often you should be networking. How many times in a week, month, or quarter? Visit as many groups as possible.
Attend events with a plan and always try to learn something new. Prepare yourself for the event. Develop open-ended questions to ignite a conversation. Bring business cards but don’t give your business card to everyone you meet. Give cards to those who ask you for it. Try to sit with strangers. Don’t forget to mingle.
Top Five Small Business Network Tips
Keep track of people you meet. Keep in touch with them and deepen your emotional connection. Establish a mutual beneficial relationship with other business people and potential clients/ customers. Meet with the group members individually so you get to know them better and try to build quality connections. Consider other group members as resources. focus on the group; listen and think about how you can help them. Focus on giving. Build trust within the group.
A Certified Meeting Planner (CMP) is also a Certified Meeting Professional CMP. The certification is offered by the Convention Industry Council. It is not easy to become a Certified Meeting Planner as the certification demands education as well as experience. The Certified Meeting Planner certification is the most prestigious certification of the meetings, conferences, symposiums and expositions industry. The certificate is awarded to only those people who have accomplished the highest level of proficiency in meeting planning. The Convention Industry Council launched the Certified Meeting Planner program in 1985.What It TakesAs has been mentioned earlier, it is not easy to become a Certified Conference Planner. Every aspirant for the certificate has to be a high-performer and very knowledgeable not only about the meeting planning process but also about corporate matters in general. They also have to be eager to understand the nuances and the art and science of meeting planning and management and enthusiastic about upgrading their existing knowledge of meeting planning. Aspirants also have to be aware of best practices and ethics in the business of meeting management and must show keenness to devise newer methods for better meeting coordination and management. The aim of the Certified Meeting Professional Certification is to enable the Certified Meeting Planner to add value to the meeting-management process, to take strategic decisions, to act ethically, and to add a new stimulus to the meeting process.The Certified Event Planner program or the certified event planner course encourages participants to continue with their education or jobs, augment their contribution to the industry, and achieve credit and recognition for their contribution across industries. The Certified Event or Meeting Planner credential is awarded on the basis of experience in industry and a tough written examination. Selection procedures are pretty rigorous. Presently, there are about 15,000 people placed in over 30 countries who have attained the Certified Meeting Planner certificate.Essential Criteria for Becoming a Certified Conference PlannerA bachelor's degree is not compulsory for the certificate but it obviously improves your chances of becoming a Certified Meeting Planner apart from increasing your demand in the job market. Aspirants must have at least three years of experience at the industrial level. All candidates are screened by the Convention Industry Council before they are allowed to sit for the examination. Candidates must score a minimum of 90 out of 150 points to be eligible to sit for the examination. The points are awarded to the candidates according to how they fare in the following categories:Management Responsibility has a maximum of 50 points allotted to it Experience in Meeting Planning has a maximum of 35 points allotted to it Professional Contribution towards Meeting Planning has a maximum of 30 points allotted to it Education and Continuing Education has a maximum of 25 points allotted to it Professional Association/Organization Memberships has a maximum of 10 points allotted to itManagement Responsibility and Experience in Meeting Planning have been given more weightage than Professional Contribution towards Meeting Planning, Education and Continuing Education and Professional Association/Organization Memberships because it is felt that these two aspects are the real indicators of whether or not a person is a capable meeting planner.The examination for Certified conference planners or certified event planners is conducted twice a year by the Convention Industry Council. Conference planners who are keen to work with the government and keen to become Certified Government Meeting Planners should take the Certified Government Meeting Professional examinations that are conducted by the Society of Government Meeting Professionals.Benefits of the CertificationA Certified Meeting Planner obviously enjoys several advantages. The Certified Meeting or Conference Planner certification brands the holder of the certificate as a professional with a lot of experience and who has displayed unique skills and who possesses a vast amount of knowledge. The certification testifies to the efficiency and authenticity of the holder. Consequently, the career prospects of a Certified Meeting or Event Planner are much better and brighter than those of ordinary meeting planners. Certified Meeting Planners have more scope to demonstrate their expertise in large symposiums and conferences as they have acquired the certified meeting planner training.A Certified Meeting Planner is instantaneously recognized by other Certified Meeting or Conference Planners who belong to an association of certified planners and who are all dedicated to the progress of the meeting planning process. A Certified Meeting Planner can obviously charge more than ordinary meeting planners and event managers for his or her services. As the certification stands for a high degree of professionalism, business intelligence and skill, a Certified Meeting Planner is stamped throughout his or her life as an extremely goal-oriented professional.
Do not expect to receive benefits right away. Do volunteering work for network groups to stay visible and give back. As a responsible CEO you must show up regularly and on time, show others how you deal with business meetings and associates. Give quality referrals and leads. If someone gives you a referral, follow up on it in a timely manner. Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. Take a referral seriously.
Don’t spam on social networks. Use the platforms designed for CEO to build relationships and expand your network.
Limit self-promotion. Don’t sell. Build relationships. Be as helpful as you can. Share relevant information with others as people love to learn new things. Participate in discussions. Let others know you’re real. Be approachable. Treat your online connections just as valuable as your offline connections.