It's easy to become cynical about networking events in the property industry. There's nothing worse that nervously walking round a room clutching a coffee and having to wander up to total strangers and introduce yourself only to come away with no new contacts or business opportunities. Complaints about the saturated opportunities for new business at these affairs are rife, but somewhat unjust.
Overwhelmingly, these opinions are voiced by those who go to the same old haunts, see the same faces and stick to the same circles. But for those looking to break the mould and make new links, we've put together an 7-step guide to making new links in the property industry.
Broadening your horizons
If your diary of networking events looks much the same year after year perhaps you should look to shake things up a bit and add some new locations, venues and sectors into the mix.
Some events are better than others when it comes to effective networking. For instance, your chances of making new contacts are likely to be limited at more formal affairs where you're segregated on tables or have to sit through long speeches or panel debates.
Some events are better than others when it comes to networking and somewhat unintuitively, this doesn't always mean networking events.
For instance, your chances of making new contacts are likely to be limited at formal affairs where you're segregated into tables and sit through speeches or panels.
Similarly, breakfast or lunch events can often be less fruitful for budding networkers – given the constant threat of intrusion from work-related commitments. And opportunities for networking after the main event are likely to be curtailed as attendees flee back to their offices at the earliest opportunity.
As such, it pays to seek out new events held by a variety of groups and publications in a mixture of formats. Don't limit yourself too strictly to your sector and instead look for tangentially-related or generic business events where you might be able to rub shoulders with those outside of your comfort zone who may have unforeseen opportunities for collaboration.
What did you get from it?
Those genuinely seeking to broaden their horizons should re-evaluate their calendars from the ground-up, paying particular attention to the types of events they're attending and seriously reviewing the benefits accrued from recent attendance. Keeping a log of who has been to which events, who they met, what business was secure or knowledge gained can be an effective tool when it comes to reviewing them again 12 months later when an invitation comes through.
Look out for business events which are trying to do things just a little bit differently. After all, networking is just about connecting with people and finding an event where you feel more comfortable being yourself and not necessarily having to present a very corporate front can be really refreshing. One group that does this really well is Suits and Vinyl a networking group which encourages people to dust off their favourite piece of vinyl and bring it along to share with others in a fun evening of music and drinks. It's surprising how much more relaxed people feel about talking to each other when the conversational starter is all about which record you are handing over to the DJ to play.
Where to find them
Google is your friend when it comes to seeking out new networking events. In fact, there's such a plethora of calendars online – you'll spend more time sorting the wheat from the chaff than you will finding events that might be suitable.
Even if you don't manage to come across some right away, the vast majority provide email alerts – so simply drop your email address in their sign-up forms to receive tailored recommendations straight to your inbox.
While listing the myriad online resources available would take up a post in itself, some of our favourites include:
Go it alone
While it might be tempting to rely on strength in numbers when attending business events, this could be intimidating to potential prospects.
Try going alone to an event, rather than heading in mob-handed. You won't able to fall back on the comfort of your colleagues and will exponentially increase your chances of making new connections.
Similarly, since attending events can often detract from billable work and no event is 100% guaranteed to be a success in terms of finding new business – sending staff to attend in isolation will both boost your chances and prevent you from putting all your eggs in one basket.
Spread your wings on social
While we often shout about the power of social media for property companies – when it comes to networking, Twitter and LinkedIn can be phenomenal for keeping your finger on the pulse.
But it's far from a case of just being in it to win it and as with offline networking – when it comes to social media, you'll have to seek out and make new connections to reap the benefits.
While you can use free tools like Followerwonk to find the most influential accounts and individuals in both your sector and your locality, to get the most out of social, you'll need to do as the name implies and get involved.
Join LinkedIn networking groups, share interesting industry content across all your profiles, ask questions and generally take part in the conversation.
We're well aware that this can be well outside the comfort zone of many property professionals, but having a strong online presence will have the knock-on effect of bolstering your offline profile.
A wealth of valuable intelligence on who to connect with is already at your fingertips – you just have to reach out and grab it.
Make sure to periodically scour the sector and region-specific publications for news relevant to your service offering. For instance, many companies engage in PR around growth, moves and new business wins.
Find the movers and shakers that are primed to grow, stalk them on social and seek them out at networking events.
Networking isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you want to make a dent you'll have to suck it up and give it your best shot. Fortunately, there's a range of psychological tactics even the most introverted among us can use to up their networking game and win over new contacts:
Failure to plan is a plan to fail: Once again, the web can provide valuable intelligence when it comes to networking. Use social media to find out who's been talking about attending (e.g. tweeting about the hastag/event account) and briefly look them up via LinkedIn. You can even alter your settings on the latter platform so that the fact you've viewed their profile isn't visible to them.
KPIs: Have some goals in mind for the event and try your hardest to achieve them. These can be as solid as handing out five business cards or as vague as making one genuine connection.
Put them first: You may not have a way with words, but by focusing on your conversational partner, asking open-ended questions about them and their work and using reflective language (their own terms and even body language) – you can go a long way to faking it convincingly.
However, be sure to also have an 'elevator pitch' for your own business offering firmly in mind and be ready to lay this out once an opening presents itself.
Social lubricant: While we wouldn't recommend you get wasted before diving in to networking, having a drink isn't taboo can often help to take the edge off the nerves. If you're not that way inclined – then eating or chewing gum can often help to put you – and sometimes others – at ease.
Host your own
In the unlikely event that you're unable to find anything that tickles your fancy – one way to sidestep the many pitfalls of networking is to set up your own.
While this is easier said than done, it offers the freedom to use the format you'd find most useful and attract the new business contacts you're looking for. However, creating a corporate event that is genuinely attractive to your prospects is no easy feat.
Are you disenchanted with networking or do you have any tips you'd like to share? If so, be sure to leave us a comment or get in touch via Twitter. We always want to hear from you!
And if you're looking for more tips on marketing your property business, be sure to take a look at our free downloadable guide to all things marketing and PR for property companies: