The early bird, as the proverb goes, catches the worm. And it’s true for business networking: arrive early, and make the connections that the latecomers might miss out on.
Networking is an essential part of growing a business – whether you’ve just started it, or whether you want to build it and grow. However valuable a service you offer, however good your product, the simple fact is this: none of us have a divine right win to people’s trust and custom; if only life was that easy.
Obviously, we’re biased about the virtues of referral marketing, and networking at BforB meetings. All over the country, we host meetings that begin at various times of the day, from breakfast to mid-morning, from lunchtime to early evening – you can network to suit your busy schedules, though many opt for the fortnightly early start to the day; BforB networking is every other week, because many people told us the weekly commitment is often too consuming.
So you sign-up to the fortnightly BforB commitment, and that’s great; we welcome you on board. But the next step is maximising your investment, and making sure that BforB leads to new connections, great referrals, and business being done, through our virtue of ‘know-like-trust’.
What you’ll get at BforB is great support and advice, but one of the first things we always say to guests who indicate they are thinking of signing up with us: arrive early for your meetings. That’s not to say an hour before, or even half an hour: but aim to be there before the official start time, because you’d be surprised how quickly you can make a connection and find synergy with a guest or fellow member in the time spent open networking over a cup of tea or coffee, before the formality of the meeting gets underway.
If you are one of the early arrivals, you have the advantage of being there to welcome members and guests when they arrive, and therefore being in the position of being well placed to strike up an immediate conversation. Who knows where that might lead. If you arrive earlier, you have more time to network!
Devora Zack, the author of “Networking for People Who Hate Networking,” says that introverts thrive in small group conversations, but clam up in crowds. So if you are an introvert, there’s another reason for turning up early: there are fewer people around, and therefore it’s easier to strike up conversations.
Being an early arrival means you can engage in one-to-one conversations with other ‘early birds’ before the room starts to fill up, and with it, the noise and buzz that surrounds a busy room full of people in full conversation. It can make for an intimidating environment to those not used to large groups, or still new to business networking.
You also have the luxury of making the first impression in people’s minds before everyone is surrounding them with handshakes and offering their business cards.
If you have a good experience from the outset of turning up for your networking event, then the rest of the meeting will be a doddle. You will become much more relaxed, far less intimidated, and therefore confident and more comfortable ahead of delivering your 60 seconds pitch.
And look at it from another point of view: if you arrive late, think of what you miss out on – potentially fruitful conversations. Not only that, you find yourself chasing conversation, rather than starting it. You then become a bit flustered, and you are still settling in when the meeting officially gets underway.
Time is precious at networking events: maximise it to your advantage. Be there early, give yourself plenty of time to chat, introduce yourself, further develop friendships, and make connections before your meeting even gets underway.
After that it all falls into place: confident, relaxed, enjoying yourself – and who knows, from an early introduction comes a quick one-to-one meet up, building up trust between you and others, and who knows: business being done in no time.
As we said at the start: the early bird catches the worm!