Crumbs I am pre-booked this weekend!
Internet marketing can be quite a solitary . We work from home and have little interaction with peers. Imagine my annoyance to find that the one major internet marketing conference is down the road in Manchester (England), about 1 1/2 hours from home but I am pre-booked solid all weekend.
I work mostly from home and usually have little opportunity to interact with others except via webinars and forums and so on..
This lack of personal contact makes business relationships difficult to develop and almost impossible to maintain.
By far the best way to do business with someone is to meet them face to face. There is something magical in forming relationships with people that you want to do business with,when you meet them face-to-face. You can exchange far more in a few minutes of chats than in a week of emails.
Sadly the occasions when you can meet up when you can meet up are few and far between. That is what makes this opportunity so galling. Still there will always be next year.
One word of caution. I have been to a number of events where the speaker is clearly there to sell their own product. You need to come away with at least one nugget to add to your own business. That is a good way to test the value of the information they are selling. If they are willing to give you a good tip then the rest of their material must be worth looking at.
Networking is just a fancy phrase to meet, greet and prosper with people that you may be able to business with at a later stage.
You need to plan at least 2 days in a year when you can physically meet up with potential business partners and have no presentations, pitching or high pressure. These opportunities do exist. check out Free Networking as an example. Alternatively why not organise one yourself.
The first thing to do is find a suitable venue.
Many restaurants are very happy to take group bookings, but will often not be so pleased for you to spend all afternoon chatting. So look fora place to meet that stays open all afternoon – if you plan to start proceedings with a lunch – and won’t be concerned if you stay until 5 or 6 pm – or even later. This may mean looking for a location with a function room, in fact many hotels have these and they are ideal. Don’t forget most hotels also have their own car parks and that is a real bonus. Don’t think you have to have a huge meeting either. Small budget hotels on motorway service stations often have bedrooms set up as office meeting places, although if you are female it might be best to go accompanied.
When you have located a place to meet, get a fixed price for food. Many places will give you a buffet on a fixed price and that is so much easier than individual bills. You can often get a menu in advance to distribute to attendees. Get the delegates to email their food preferences, it will save a lot of hassle later.
Make sure you have name badges for all attendees. You can also put their food choices on the back as many people forget what they ordered.
Ideally you should aim for 12 to 30 people. If you have less than 12, the chat is hard to get going and sustain. More than 30 and it can be difficult to manage. when you have a few meetings under your belt it will be easier to manage.
I mentioned costs above BUT don’t forget to ensure that they all have drinks. It is off putting to have an unexpected bill at the end of the day. Ideally you want welcoming coffee and biscuits/cookies. You need similar for a mid-morning and mid-afternoon comfort break and they need to have a drink with lunch. If people are driving, avoid alcohol for obvious reasons but if you are in a city centre and people are traveling by public transport then think about wine/beer with lunch. Since you are doing the work make sure you add a small premium on everyone else to pay for your own place but don’t be too pricey or you will put them off.
Payment. Make sure you get payment by cheque or PayPal in advance. If you rely on taking the money on the day there will always be people who forget their wallet/purse and this can be socially very embarrassing for them and you. Be aware of PayPal’s fees though and adjust the price people have to pay accordingly.
Remember that having paid already, they will be much more likely to arrive on the day. If they expect to pay on the day, they may fail to show up and you will still have to pay for the hotel food.
The TV cook Mary Berry insists that people move around at her parties and you should do the same. Avoid letting people sit with their friends or the purpose of the meeting is lost. The idea is to meet and mingle. If you need to, call it speed dating, most people will love it that way.
Publicity. Your day will need to be publicised, so don’t forget to use social media. You can also use local media like the local newspaper but don’t forget local radio, community radio, hospital and internet radio stations. They are all hungry for content and will happily plug local events. Don’t forget community TV is on the rise in the UK and many new companies are starting to make local tv programmes. Get people to sign up on a mailing list. This helps them to commit to attending.
Start fairly small, but word will soon spread and people will eventually attend from far and wide.
I have already marked up my diary for March 2015 and will be champing at the bit all weekend because I have family duties to attend to, so best of luck to all who attend in Manchester, wish I could be with you.