In our last blog post we discussed the importance of one’s Personal Brand in what is becoming an increasingly competitive landscape. If you’ve now started spending time rebuilding your own brand, posting it all over the internet and attending lots of networking events, how do you ensure you are getting the highest return on the time and, possibly, money that you are investing? The key is not to simply attend, for example, networking events without having prepared a plan that aligns with the actioning of your personal brand.Use this simple but effective template to assess the relative alignment of your personal brand with a potential network group and the return on your time (and, perhaps, financial) investment.
Let’s explain what each of these rows mean and, where applicable, look at how they are strategic to the way you action your personal brand.
Group name and type
The name of the group or event will usually be whatever is given by the organiser. The type of the event may also be defined by them (e.g. “speed networking”), though you may wish to develop your own types and subtypes for use in this template; when you look back at previous events you attended, this will help you quickly group them together and analyse them in further detail.
Group profile/sector/interests (relevance to me)
When considering to attend a particular event, before you sign up you should really take the time to profile the event and establish which sector attendees will be from and what their interests will be. A quick call to the event organiser can help here, as can looking at any published write-ups of previous instances of the same event (e.g. the same event may have been held last year). Then ask yourself objectively, “is this event really relevant to me and the development of my personal brand?”.
What is my aim?
Why are you joing this group or attending this event and how does it relate to actioning your personal brand? If you are in the wealth management business, one of your branding aims may be to demonstrate to prospective clients that you achieve consistently impressive results for your pool of existing clients. The aim of attending a particular networking event may therefore be to sign up a certain number of attendees to join a “Client Success Stories” talk that you are planning to hold at some point in the near future. Throughout this talk you will be building your personal brand and helping to ensure that prospective clients look for *you* when they are in the market for the services you offer.
Now going back to the networking event you’re going to attend to get the sign-ups for this talk, imagine you go to the event and spend the whole time talking to only one or two fellow attendees. More than likely, you’ll end up with a big fat ZERO sign-ups for your upcoming talk. You leave the event wondering why you wasted your time.
This nightmare scenario happens all too easily to your average event attendee, particularly those that attend with no real aim in mind. If, prior to the event, you had instead thought about your aims and set yourself a target to make, say, five appointments during the event, you would have been far less likely to have hung around chatting aimlessly to a limited few attendees.
Ideal connections – describe the goals
Having figured out what your aim of attending an event is, now think about the ideal connections that you would like to meet at that event. Will these types of connections be present at the event in sufficient quantities? For example, if you are a B2B type company and need to connect with decision makers, will there be plenty of decision makers at the event? Do your research beforehand to find out who will be attending; sometimes picking up the phone to the event organiser can help here.
If you go on to attend the event, focus your time on networking with your ideal connections. If you start talking to someone and quickly establish that they are far off from being an ideal connection, it may be time to make your excuses and move along to the next person!
Tactical group notes/tips – what works well?
If you’re attending a certain type of event, for example a business luncheon, what are your tactics going to be and what will work well? If you do not have much experience with networking events, this may be the point at which you start doing your research and reach out to ask help, for example by posting questions to our Facebook Page. Once you have identified your tactics, keep them in the back of your mind as the event progresses, or even write them down to refer to every time you stop for a breather.
My elevator speech (for this group)
Before you attend any kind of networking event, get your elevator speech scripted and rehearsed. This pitch should be scripted to portray your personal brand concisely yet strongly. Whenever you meet new people at the event, they’re going to be making decisions about you within minutes, potentially even seconds of meeting you. If the person you are talking to is your “ideal connection” as discussed above, you may not be talking to them for long if you haven’t got your elevator speech sorted. To enhance the effectiveness of your elevator speech and lead to more goals being met during the event, consider joining a group (e.g. a circle) of people who are already talking and work in your elevator speech into the group conversation. The chances are that somebody in that circle will be interested in what you have to say and want to break off to talk to you in more detail. Before you go ahead and do that though, try to first quickly qualify each person (e.g. by asking them simple questions) in the circle and aim to break off and talk to the most ideal connection in that group.
What can I do for these people?
No matter how good your academic and professional qualifications are, the truth is that people only really care about how you can help *them*. Therefore, if you’re attending an event, put yourself into the shoes of a typical attendee and ask yourself what they would want to hear about how you could help them. Ensure that all attendees you meet, particularly if they fall into the category of your ideal connection, know how you can potentially help them. In many cases, talking about how you have helped others can help reinforce the image you are trying to portray for your brand, so be sure to drop in a success story or two.
Diary dates/scheduled tasks
One you make a decision to join a group or attend an event as part of actioning your personal brand, keep track of important dates that you identify throughout. Some diary dates communicated to you may just be for future meetups or suchlike, but you may well learn about important diary dates that are related to other happenings outside the group. For example, you may learn in one conversation that there’s a conference related to your industry taking place in the near future that you weren’t aware of and simply must attend; make a note of it! As you attend more and groups and events, you may find that some are better sources for this type of information and you may therefore wish to ensure you attend such events on a regular basis.
When you attend events, you may also create tasks and schedule them in your diary. For example, you may meet somebody who requests that you send them a brochure, which you promise to send them the following week. This is a useful outcome of the event and should be tracked.
Whereas identifying your aims, as we discussed earlier in this post, is more of a high level activity e.g. “I want to demonstrate my ability to manage a client’s wealth and hence elevate my personal brand”, this should be broken down into targets and expected outcomes. Without targets and outcomes in place, you are less likely to achieve what you are aiming for when you action your personal brand; as Richard Branson tweeted just a few days ago when sharing this post, “Set your goals, write them down — now you’re one step closer to achieving them”.
So you’ve started joining groups, networking like crazy and have a very clear idea about how to pitch yourself during these events. Keep track of how much time you are spending on each group or event. This data can then be used when you compare this event or group to your other marketing activities, as we shall describe next.
Compare with other marketing activities
With all the data collected as detailed above, when you review your personal brand action plan you’ll be able to establish which groups or events are giving you the best return per unit time. For example, you may find that every hour spent at a speed networking event with hundreds of attendees may give you a huge pile of business cards to go home with, but only a few of those are real prospects – does that really help your brand? In contrast, you may look back at your time data and find that attending one hour niche workshops results in ten or more serious prospects every time you attend. From this you may conclude that attending niche workshops is a better source of leads (and hence a better use of your valuable time) compared to speed networking events.
In this post we discussed how to action your personal brand by aligning all networking events you attend and groups that you join to your branding goals. Do you have any tips on how to align such events with your personal brand? if so, please share in the comments section below.