8go where your clients network. Focus at least some of your networking activity on
meeting and learning directly from
people in your client market.
In the UK, for example, meeting
planners will be members of organizations such as MPI (Meeting Planners
International) and EVCOM (Event and
Visual Communication Association), as
will other suppliers to the industry.
Many speakers present at regional
meetings and the national conference of
ISM (Institute of Sales Management),
where they get the chance to engage
with sales directors.
Of course, there are trade events for
the industries you target and LinkedIn
groups where members of your target
audience discuss their latest challenges.
I am a member of, and work closely
with, a social network for the pensions
industry and have managed to raise my
profile and build my reputation within
the industry as a result.
The Golden Rule of networking is
simple: Your clients don’t attend trade
events to be pitched by potential suppliers. Respect their reasons for being there,
and engage with them on those terms.
9seek to understand your clients’ challenges. Networking with your clients
and within their industry will give you
the ideal opportunity to find out what
their challenges are
likely to be, major issues
and current trends in
the industry, and how
they are spending their
You don’t need to stop
there. Build a network
of people in the industry who will give you
regular insight and act
as mentors to you
(formally or otherwise)
in helping you best
understand their world.
If you decide to target
new industries, ask
your network for introductions to people who
can give you some
insight before you start
to sell yourself. Your
network is the best
source of research for
any new industry.
10Be strategic. Most speakers, like most businesses, leave networking and referrals to chance. It becomes
almost an afterthought.
We think, “If I do a good job, my
client will refer me” or “maybe I’ll go
to that networking event; I’m free
that morning.” This lazy, unfocused
approach will bring the results it
If you do a good job, your client will
pay you, and they’ll go back to planning
next year’s event without giving you
a second thought. You can’t expect
referrals just for delivering what you’ve
been contracted to do. You need to
work smarter and harder than that.
Meanwhile, with networking groups
offering opportunities morning, noon
and night six days a week, what are
the chances that the event that fits into
your schedule is the right one for you?
You need to be strategic with
your networking. Do you have clear
objectives for referrals, information-
gathering, support, word of mouth
and influence? Without them, you’ll
be likely to achieve only a fraction
of what is possible.
Named by The Financial
Times as one of Europe’s
leading business network-
ing strategists, Andy
Lopata is a Fellow and
former Board Member of the Profes-
sional Speaking Association (UK and
Ireland). He is the author of three books
on networking and referrals. Find more
resources at www.andylopata.com.