The new event season is upon us, and unlike previous seasons, this one is shaping up to be a defining one. Why? Physical events are returning in full force, and industries will be embracing and relishing the opportunity to network in person.
Networking remains the cornerstone of successful affiliate marketing — or any business segment, for that matter. Nothing is set in stone here, but there are several aspects to effective networking that I consider to be integral, particularly when it comes to physical interactions.
The shift from behind a screen to IRL
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted an immediate switch to online interactions, redefining conferences and networking for several years. Of course, there were benefits to networking behind a screen, such as the ability to network from anywhere and with anyone worldwide, saving costs and offering greater accessibility. However, we learnt that online networking cannot replace the powerful impact that can only come from face-to-face interactions.
The shift back to in-person events is happening. Most people now embrace hybrid working, and companies are preparing to increase the amount of in-person interactions; we are seeing a preference for physical events and conferences. Now, the question is: how to get the best out of face-to-face networking?
The strategy: It all starts with the why
When attending an event, the first question you need to ask is, ‘Why?’. In other words, why are you attending this event?
The answer may be simple enough – it could be an event attended by most of your industry peers or part of an exercise to grow your network.
However, you should also consider how attending the event fits your broader sales objectives and growth targets. Saying to yourself, “I am attending an event to meet and network with people”, lacks important details, so be specific with yourself.
For instance, as someone who works in affiliate marketing, I spend time researching the events I am attending, making notes of the people I want to meet with and providing a list of core objectives I want to achieve. This typically revolves around expanding my partnership network in key industries and countries where I see significant opportunities and benefits.
Here’s a list of suggested objectives:
- To expand my professional circle: Connect with at least three individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences to expand my network
- To generate leads: Identify potential clients, customers or collaborators to create future business opportunities. Note down names and details to follow up with.
- To support my professional development: Seek out mentors or advisors to enhance my role, share insights, and provide food for thought
The more specific you are, the easier it will be to decide what tactics you should adopt to meet your set objectives.
Pro Tip: Remember to come prepared with business cards!
Play to your strengths and understand the strengths of others
There is a common misconception that only extroverts can effectively network. As we move from online to in-person events, we perceive that extroverts will have a natural advantage. In my experience, this is not the case. Introverts and extroverts have their own strengths.
For example, introverts are typically more selective in what they say, are good listeners and can ask thoughtful questions at the right moments. They want to avoid leading a conversation but will pay close attention to what is being said and know when to contribute.
In comparison, extroverts are confident and engaging talkers who are charismatic and find it easier to speak on a host of different topics. They are happy to be the ones leading the conversations.
The point here is that when approaching a networking event, self-awareness is key. Understand what type of person you are and play to your strengths. If you see yourself as an introvert, don’t see this as a disadvantage. So, how can introverts use their personality and style to their advantage?
I constantly see first-hand people who would naturally consider themselves introverts successfully expanding their networks. As well as listening actively, introverts thrive when they have time to prepare, so before attending the event, make sure you’ve done your due diligence and come prepared with authentic conversation starters or questions related to the event’s theme.
I’d also recommend interacting with smaller groups or one-to-one interactions, as this is where introverts can truly shine and form deeper connections.
On the flip side, if you’re an extrovert, be conscious not to dominate the conversation, especially with those who are more reserved. Ask them questions and give them time to respond. Extroverts will be excitable and energetic, often breaking the ice and initiating conversations themselves; however, taking a step back can be very valuable.
Granting others the opportunity to approach you, share their own insights and practice their own relationship-building skills is just as important.
Identifying different personality types is critical. Undertaking this type of profiling at the beginning of the conversation helps lead to a more natural and constructive discussion rather than repeating a sales pitch that is not tailored to the individual.
Pro Tip: Use the first two minutes to learn more about the person/group you’re speaking with. Keep asking questions and stay curious!
The long game
I have seen in the past instances where networking is only considered successful if an immediate lead is generated. This is the wrong approach.
Building a network of partners is a long-term tactic that takes many hours and plenty of dedication. Remember that only some connections will lead to immediate benefits, but consistent effort will yield long-term results. Undertaking the hard-sell approach will rarely deliver. Instead, what really makes for effective networking is authenticity.
Pro Tip: Focus on being present. Hand out your business card at the very end of the conversation, and follow up with your contact within 48 hours to continue to nurture the relationship.
Shared interests: The key to long-lasting connections
I always encourage my colleagues to focus on forming connections based on shared interests, values, and goals. When attending in-person events, the conversations will naturally move away from business topics to a host of topics, from politics to the economy and hobbies. This is where physical events have so much more to offer than online events.
You can build genuine connections with people who learn more about who you are. This is incredibly important when it comes to relationship building.
Consistency is also important. After an event, I advise regularly touching base with your network, whether through occasional emails, social media interactions, or attending industry events. Show that you value the relationship beyond just transactional moments and always follow up with a tailored approach that reflects the conversation you had. Sending a blanket message goes against authenticity.
Pro tip: When following up, draw on one poignant part of your conversation or news that may be of interest based on your discussions.
Ultimately, in-person networking can deliver significant results if approached correctly. It is fantastic to see a return to physical events, with the coming months offering plenty of opportunities for people to expand their networks and unlock the door to exciting new ventures.
Reflect on your commonalities, plan ahead and play to your strengths – that’s my secret to effective networking!
Boris is the head of affiliates at Alpha Affiliates.
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