If you’re on the lookout for networking opportunities, you can usually find plenty of places to go and events to attend. With a good amount of local social media connections and sites like meetup.com, finding an event to attend at any give time can be pretty easy. Me personally, I like going to conferences and live events. I mean, that should be my full-time job, hobnobbing at luncheons! However, I can’t do this because
- Events cost money and time.
- Follow up takes work to make the event worthwhile.
- I can’t get any work done if I’m attending a bunch of events all the time.
Choosing events to attend can be tricky for time and budget strapped entrepreneurs. Between meetups, membership organizations, networking mixers, trade shows and conferences, how in the world are you supposed to figure out where to go? Here are 5 points to consider as you decide:
Is the event site out of your way? Do you have to travel to get there? I know you’ll figure in travel costs if you have to hop on a plane or plan a day trip, but for those events that are close by, do you figure the commute time into your event attendance decision? You should! Entrepreneurs must always consider opportunity costs when considering networking opportunities. Your time is particularly limited when you’re a solopreneur, so decide how much prep time the event will actually take and the round trip commute, in addition to the real event. You have to make your effort count!
What’s the purpose of the event? Are you a member of an organization that’s hosting the event? Is it exclusively for networking? Is there an educational component to the event? Is there a presentation involved? Is there an agenda, or is it a freestyle meet and greet?
What’s your intention for attending? Are you going to network, hear a presentation, meet specific people, be part of an industry crowd, get your name on an attendee list that will be distributed within your industry, advertising, or a mix of the above?
What’s the attendee profile like? Who will be attending the event? Will it be your competitors? Prospective clients? Thought leaders in your industry? People you already know? Local professionals? Are people traveling into town specifically for this event?
How does price fit your budget? Ok, I know many small business don’t have a marketing budget, they just do what they can when they can. And I know I’m supposed to tell you to make a marketing budget or you aren’t committed to your business, blah blah blah… but you know I’m far too practical to tell you what you already know. Let’s approach this another way.
So you don’t have a marketing budget? Ok, but here’s what you need to do to continue marketing your business via events: research and plan ahead. For example, ration out a quarterly dollar amount you can spend specifically on events and networking. It doesn’t matter if you have $50 or $500 to spend, you still have to figure out how to best maximize those dollars. Find out where you want to go and make a plan to get there! Suppose you couldn’t go to x conference this year because you didn’t plan ahead for it. Ok, there’s always next year. Did you include this event on next year’s calendar? Did you start saving for this event, enroll in a payment option plan, figure out how many clients you need to secure today to pay for this event in the future? Or maybe you heard great reviews about a half-day seminar you missed. Find out the date for next one, add it to your calendar, and work that cost/time into your schedule.
Bonus Thought: Is the information you gain by attending a live event attainable in another way? Maybe a colleague is going, and they can share the highlights with you? Cross-reference resources within your network to stay current. Maybe it’s an educational opportunity, but if you do a little research you can find the same information online? Maybe the event will repeat, and you can catch it next quarter? If so, do you really have to attend the event, or can you direct those dollars towards an event that will be better suited to your needs?
I look at these 5 criteria for every single event I attend – it doesn’t matter if it’s a small meetup or a 3-day conference. I don’t just randomly decide to attend an event, and neither should you! You should have an intention for every scheduled interaction as it pertains to your business, and this includes seemingly simple networking events. Take 20 minutes and do a bit of research to figure out if an event is worth your time and/or money.
Wasting time is not an option for small business owners. Your time is one of your most, if not the most, valuable asset you can control.