As the new year dawns many people review their year – both positives and negatives –

What worked well?

What didn’t work at all?

What do you wish you had more time for?

What will you make more time for in the next 12 months?

Yet when it comes to face to face networking, if you are taking one year to review your activity – you are potentially missing lots of opportunities. Or even worse, continuing to do something that is really not working for you.

One thing I know for sure is that master networkers can make decisions quickly and accept or decline potential networking invitations in a heartbeat.

So let’s look at the decision making tips that some master networkers use on receipt of an invitation. Let’s face it – today the chances of getting a hard copy invitation via snail mail are very rare.

The standard invitation format today is sent via email, twitter, a forwarded link, meet-up, LinkedIn, Facebook, You Tube or a dedicated website. You may print off the invitation or just give it a quick scan. Let’s look the main things that grab your attention:

1. Attention compelling email header/opening sentence or event title. If the sender has targeted their marketing to a specific demographic (that includes you) you will probably move to point 2. If you are not remotely the target market, the delete button looms.

2. Your interest has been sparked – tell me more – What is the date? Where is it being held? What is the time frame? Who else will be there? Some readers will delete the invitation at this point if the location, date or time does not match their availability. If it does you may move to point 3.

3. Why should I go? What are the benefits of attending? Who else is going? Good copy can clinch the deal here or at least get you to move to the action step – point 4.

4. How much is it? Very quickly we weigh up the risk of wasting that amount of money on a bad event versus the potential benefits to be gained if you enjoy the event and get to network with the potential participants.

The definition for bad event may vary from person to person. Some may define a bad event as a poorly organised event where nothing was planned, the event started late with no real structure and everyone was left to their own devices. Sometimes a case of promise great – deliver lousy.

Yet for others the informality may be just what they love the most. Many people have a “dollar meter” that they are prepared to risk. “Well it’s only $50, so if I don’t like it, I can leave – it’s not a huge amount of money.” Someones else’s “dollar meter” might be $1,000 – it totally depends on the demographic, the event and the potential benefits.

Many people today attend a free event knowing full well that although theoretically it is FREE – there is a big chance there will be a heavy and very persuasive sell throughout the event for another event/course. All of this as the delete button looms and we quickly make a decision – yes, no or maybe.

So let’s put on a master networker’s hat when we look at the next invitation we receive. In addition to the above 4 points, the master networker has done their pre-event homework weeks before. They have decided that in this quarter, they are looking to attend networking events – local, nationally or internationally where:

a. Their specific potential prospect demographic is located. e.g. you are a recruitment firm specialising in finding candidates for banking and finance organisations. So you will definitely plan to attend the high $$ ticket events where your banking and finance decision makers flock. This might be a state or national conference, a post budget breakfast or maybe even a charity fundraiser that their organisation supports. Their marketing budget would include attendance at these events. Stricly speaking the higher the cost of the ticket, the more senior the level of decision maker attending the event. e.g. if the event is a $275.00 AFR lunch, it is highly unlikely you will find the personal assistant or support staff in attendance. But you will find a number of senior managers there. Yes they are there for the speaker/information/panel as well as the opportunity to network with their peers, competitors and prospects.

b. Their current client base are regulars at these events. Today once the business is secured, in some professions there is no need for regular contact with the client by the original negotiator – your team are the ones making contact. However, it is always a healthy networking habit to run into/reconnect with your client from time to time at social or business networks. You are reconnecting with them, updating yourself on what is happening in their world, not just professionally but also personally (when appropriate), and supporting their networks as well.

c. Lapsed clients are also in the master networkers radar for this quarter. So they will make an effort to show up at networking events where they can run into lapsed clients. Past clients are lapsed for all sorts of reasons, e.g. they only require your product or services occasionally, you blew it – they gave you a chance and you stuffed up at that point in time with your product or service, complacency may have also set in and you lost their business because you stopped valuing their business. Often in an informal networking situation lapsed clients or more than happy to discuss doing business again – or highlighting to you, why that will never be possible. At least you will know. And face to face you will be able to get to that much faster than over the phone or email.

So why can master networkers make decisions quickly about whether they will invest time, money and energy attending a networking event or not? The answer is simple – they have a networking plan – their a, b and c target is very clear, they also know why they want to network with them and in what location and they have allocated a networking budget.

Finally, they are great delegators. Yes they will attend the AFR lunch with the $275 ticket, but they might encourage their PA and support staff to take a table at the $55.00 breakfast and invite some of their client’s PA’s as well. In this way they are strengthening their networks within their client’s organisation and drilling down with cross networking staff members. And their senior team and support staff know that there is a marketing budget available if they see an event that would be a great networking opportunity for their firm. They are encouraged and more than welcome to flick the invitation to the manager with 3 reasons why they think it would be great for them to attend and maybe take a couple of clients along as well. Their requests are rarely declined – because they use their system. And all the team are aware of the firm’s a, b and c networking targets. These targets are for the team, not just one individual.

Master networkers have systems – they measure their return on attendance at every event they or their team attend. The result’s measurement includes immediate (1 week) short term (30-60 days) and long term (90-120 days).

The reality today is that your return on attendance networking events is often NOT immediate. However, you have made the connection, extended your network, reconnected or reacquainted yourself with a prospect at an event and followed up with your contacts post event. The worst thing you can do in 2013 is only attend a networking ONCE! You must go back to that network to continue to build your profile, reconnect with those you met and expand your network.

Sometimes you meet someone and at that point in time they are a 9 out of 10 prospect for you. In their world, you are a 5 out of 10 – “one day I will use that person’s services, just not today”. Attending a network a second time, will increase your chances of getting your return on attendance.

Have a brilliant 2013 – and remember networking can open every door for you – you just have to know what you want, why you want it and how you are going to make it happen.

Have fun networking until next time!

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