Well, a little background first…
I’m technically an introvert: in order to get my energy level up, I need to be by myself for a while, cranking away at work stuff at my Chicago-area communications agency, Area 224. This is introversion to me – it’s not shyness, it’s not that I’m uncomfortable around people. It’s just that I need to work like this.
So, when I make the decision to hit a networking event, I make a different sort of calculation. Where will I be, who will I be with, do I have enough “me time” first. AND, after I make those calculations…well, I DO need to figure out whether it’s worth my while from a budget perspective.
Introvert? Extrovert? In-between? You still don’t want to spend a ton – so here are some tips to keep your networking professional and keep your budget in tact.
- Meet for coffee to build the relationship
- Check the attendee list for bigger events
- If there’s alcohol – know your limit
- Early Bird Gets The…
LinkedIn is great for building a professional network – a free basic membership is just about all you need – but sometimes you need to dig a little deeper and find out what you can do to help the other person. Coffee works great for this: doesn’t have to be a Starbucks and maybe your independent coffee shop works just as well for your budget. (Shop local, all that stuff.)
Tip: Ask someone in your network to meet for coffee to see how you can help further their network. If it’s about them, and not you, there’s tons that can come out of it for you. Karma.
This happened to me a couple times recently: I was figuring out whether or not an event was going to be worth my while, so I peeked at who was coming. (Eventbrite is great for this.)
If the list includes people you know, or people you want to meet, your handshake and business card value exchange quotient (I made that stat up) could potentially be off the charts.
This is an important one. For me, I know that “free” beer tastes awfully good. I also know that more than one free beer and I’m going to wake up with an infamous “two beer headache.”
But you also don’t want to be “that guy” (or gal). And be sure to take a look at the appetizers or food and get your money’s worth there, too.
Book! (Or other freebie.)
Well, it’s not a freebie if you have to pay for it, but here’s the calculus from my Monday night networking event, Social Media Club Chicago.
This doesn’t even begin to measure the number of handshakes, business card exchanges, hugs from old friends, and the like…
This is one of the hidden gems of networking. Pretty much every group, club, organization or association needs help. And if you volunteer to hand out drink tickets, watch coats, or clean up – not only can you get in free, you can meet tons of people.
Are these foolproof methods to network on a budget? Well, maybe not foolproof – you’re going to have some free events that aren’t worth the cost of admission. But, still, you’ve got a really good chance of turning your next networking event into future opportunities – and not breaking the bank in the process – if you follow these tips.