Communication, information sharing, and the means of fostering professional relationships have undergone significant changes in the digital age. People now rely on social media, video conferencing, and online communities to build their networks. In fact, 92% of people prefer attending online meetings or social media chats to in-person meetings.
While technology has significantly impacted remote connections, especially through connecting from the comfort of our own spaces, we can’t eliminate the importance of conventional networking events. Face-to-face networking is so relevant that 95% of professionals agree it is exceedingly beneficial for their business.
Let’s discuss the importance of attending entrepreneur networking events, even in this digital age.
Networking is the act of building professional and personal relationships with other industry experts with the intent to share information, opportunities, resources, and value. What distinguishes networking from other regular meetings is the intentionality of people to build meaningful connections that can help their careers.
This is why networking accounts for filling 85% of job vacancies through professional and personal connections. Therefore, the importance of networking in this digital age can’t be overemphasized. Networking provides access to valuable information alongside professional growth in your career through mentorship, job referrals, career opportunities, brand visibility, and partnerships.
Benefits of Networking Events
Your network can be a stepping stone to accelerate your career, and based on research, networking events are responsible for the success of 78% of startups. Still doubt the benefits of attending entrepreneur events? Let's discuss why they matter:
1. Increased Connections
Attending networking events allows you to meet more professionals in your career. With these connections, you stay updated on industry trends and share resources and information that can increase your brand visibility. Additionally, your connections from your network increase the possibility of accessing higher-paying positions, job referrals, partnerships and collaborations, advanced roles, and better alignment with job preferences.
2. The Opportunity to Learn New Skills
Most entrepreneur networking events focus on entrepreneurs developing interpersonal skills that are great for their business. Attending these events creates an awareness of important skills to cultivate and practical guidance on how to put them into use. You can also learn skills from industry experts who are more advanced in learning and practice.
3. Building Professional Relationships
About 83% of organizers believe in-person conferences are the ideal networking environment for professional relationships. Think of networking events as an entrepreneur's school where you can unlearn and learn while building relationships that stay with you for life. These professional relationships affect your personal and business growth; they often serve as a support and guidance system to fast-track growth.
Networking Event Strategies
Whether you're a professional or just starting your entrepreneurial journey, networking is a craft that requires unique skills to master. Here are a few strategies you can employ to master the act.
1. Research Ahead of Time
Not all entrepreneur events may benefit your personal and business growth. Therefore, before attending networking events, you should research to learn more about them. It's important to know who the organizers are, the professionals who will be in attendance, and the aim of the event. This lets you determine if that meeting will align with your goals and interests.
2. Prepare an Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch is a simple brief about yourself and what you represent. Before attending a networking event, prepare a concise brief highlighting your name, business, achievements, and what you offer. It's important to keep your brief short but engaging. That may be your key to bringing in professionals who want to partner with you.
3. Develop a Follow-Up Plan
While 79% of professionals agree that networking is valuable for their career growth, only 48% consistently keep in touch with their network. This is because people are only focused on developing connections but don’t have a proper follow-up plan to ensure a long-term bond. After a networking event, you can send personalized email messages and a connection request on LinkedIn and other social platforms to keep up conversations. Create a regular check-in routine to ensure you stay in touch with your networks.
With a group like Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), your Forum is a built-in network that facilitates constant communication. Once you join a Forum someone in your network will always be within reach, whether via text, phone call, or email.
Different Types of Networking Events and How to Choose the Right Ones for You
Attending events is one way to build your networks; however, knowing the right events to attend is even more crucial. Here is a list of networking events to look out for:
The Inc 5000 Awards Dinner: This networking event focuses on celebrating iconic and successful business owners of the year. It provides the opportunity to recognize and celebrate global businesses and companies. Through this event, professionals can share their experiences and strategies for outstanding success, which, in turn, provides a great platform for other entrepreneurs to learn.
Firewalks: As the name suggests, this is a networking event that allows entrepreneurs to test their resilience, adaptability, and strategies to grow their businesses. This event welcomes entrepreneurs to meet their peers, network, share vital information and resources, and learn from other experiences.
Lunch and Learn Events: These luncheon events are hosted annually with top trainers and business gurus in attendance. Business owners in Boston can share their struggles and triumphs while receiving guidance. This year, on May 7, the city hosted an exclusive lunch meeting with Tim Grover, a world-class trainer and mentor to many sports stars.
Accelerator Events: Accelerator events comprise a string of in-person functions that allow owners of emerging businesses with up to $250,000 in revenue to network and learn from other entrepreneurs. One such program is Accelerator People Day, where entrepreneurs learn techniques and skills to build connections with employees and customers. Another is the Accelerator Strategy Day, designed for entrepreneurs to present their strategies for review and analysis by industry experts.
To help you decide on the right event to attend, you can search for entrepreneur events near you. This way, you can read reviews and learn more about events to determine if they’re related to your field and if going will be a worthwhile experience.
Challenges Faced at Networking Events
While we appreciate the fact that networking events bring about formidable connections, we are not alien to the fact that there are challenges that come with building professional connections. Let's discuss some of these challenges and how to tackle them:
1. Small Talk Anxiety
This can be caused by several factors, such as not knowing the right thing to say, not knowing how to present it, fear of being stuck in a conversation, or fear of appearing too forward or pushy. Before attending events, it's important to practice communication skills. Also, prepare your pitch to help channel your discussion, and wear your confidence as a cloak.
2. Feeling Overwhelmed or Out of Place
It's natural to feel overwhelmed or out of place, especially when events are full of industry professionals. However, to help you stay focused on building professional relationships, understand why you are attending such events in the first place. Write down your goals and strategies, and practice breathing techniques and self-affirmations.
3. Finding the Best Group to Fit Into
Sometimes, networking events can be crowded, making it difficult to know who to connect with. While researching networking events near you, answer the following questions:
What kind of network am I looking for?
What organizations are more active and dynamic in my local area?
Do I need a network that can open me up to new opportunities?
Do I need startup founders or professionals as my go-to network?
Answering these questions will help you know the group you fit into, and then you can make the most out of your connections.
The Future of Networking Events in the Digital Age
Networking events in this digital age are constantly evolving. Hence, entrepreneurs and businesses are taking up unique models to adapt to these global changes. That's why hybrid events that allow individuals to participate in person and online are on the rise, offering flexibility and accessibility to participants.
So far, social media and virtual networking platforms are the vehicles driving these evolutions. Likewise, entrepreneurs' networks like EO Boston will form an integral part of the future of networking, as they provide the platform for top industry experts to meet, learn, and grow.
EO Boston forums also facilitate deep, honest, respectful conversations, transformational growth, and life-long friendships and relationships relevant in this digital age. Learn more about EO Boston and our members.