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Just showing up at an event is a great first step.  As a business partner and good friend of mine always say, “Show up, be present, and honor the event.”

I have a question for you, “How many of you think business networking events really stink?”  Okay, I’ll wait while everybody raises their hands.  I get lots of interesting comments from busy entrepreneurs and business people about why they can’t go: they’re too busy, they don’t have the time, they can’t get away from work, they don’t want to be sold something, or it’s the wrong people in the room.  I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not crazy about going either, as a matter of fact, I’m very picky about the networking events that I actually attend.  When I do show up to the party, I show up to get business done and have a little fun along the way.  I show up with an agenda and I show up with goals for the event. To help me achieve those goals, I usually bring along friends.  Why bring friends?  Because they know people and can make introductions for me right there at the event.  Taking my posse is a huge key to my success.  By the way, my goal is simple: I usually want to meet five people.  Why so few? Well, I know that realistically I will follow up with that many.

Let’s talk about 4 easy steps to show up and get results:

Step one:   When you talk to someone, have a meaningful conversation about them.  One of the best ways to build rapport is to talk about the other person. People love to talk about themselves.  Here are a few easy questions to get a conversation going.   What type of business are you in? What do you like most about your business?  Why did you choose this as a business?  Who invited you to the party and how did you get to know them?  If the person is interesting and you would like to know more about them, set up a time to meet again for a cup of coffee.  This would be what I would call an A-PocketTM conversation.  More about that later on.

Step two:   Now you have moved on to someone with whom you are having an okay conversation, but you don’t really want to spend a lot of time with them in conversation. They are nice, friendly and polite but you just don’t have a great rapport.  What now?  How do you politely move on?  I simply ask, “Are you on Facebook or Linkedin?”  If they say “Yes”, then I say,” Great, let’s get connected.”  This is what I would call a B- Pocket conversation.  I’ve actually had some really meaningful relationships start out this way.

Step Three:   You meet someone and they’re really annoying or they talk incessantly about themselves or they try to sell you something.  NOT GOOD!  By the way, how many of you go to a networking event to buy something?   Very few, but many go wanting to sell something.  Anyone see a problem with that?  The point is to build relationships which can lead to potential sales opportunities down the road.  By the way, this would be a C-Pocket conversation.

Let’s talk a little bit about the pocket conversations.   I put business cards in three different pockets.  An A-Pocket CardTM represents someone whom I want to follow up with ASAP.  We had a great conversation and agreed to grab coffee together soon.  A B-Pocket conversation is someone whom I will probably not get together with face to face; however, they were still interesting and I’d like to connect.  The C-Pocket people are the obnoxious ones who get thrown into the recycle bin when I get back to the office.

Step Four: This isn’t a big surprise.   Following up after networking events is the key to success.  If you go to the party and you don’t follow up, why go?  You know the old adage: if a tree falls in the woods and nobody heard it, did it really fall?  So make sure you follow up with those A-Pocket conversations ASAP.  I normally pull out my phone and set those appointments right on the spot.

I will give you two choices for Networking success.  One:  Make it a party, have fun at networking events and take your friends.   Plug into one or two events a week.  Get out there and make some connections with meaningful contacts. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your business will grow as a result.  Two:  Sit in your office twiddling your thumbs, organizing your desk and hoping the phone will ring.  By the way, if you choose that option you won’t be in business long.

Speaking of showing up!  If you are in the Atlanta area and would like to network with an amazing group of business leaders, check out the following events.

I hope you show up,