8 Tricks for a Great Networking Event

8 Tricks for a Great Networking Event 8 Tricks for a Great Networking Event

by Paula Vasan: built by Kayan Lim

Good networking involves more than face-to-face meetings: Really skilled networkers not only take advantage of their own networks, but tap other people's networks as well. In his My Word column for Financial Planning, Jason Gordo, co-founder of Valley Wealth in Modesto, Calif., and CEO of FlexScore, an online financial assessment tool, talks about how he used networking to build a $325 million practice in five years.

Read more about Gordoís own event here.

In 2009, he started an annual event, The Economy and You. Free and open to the public, the conference featured locally renowned business leaders in various fields, who described how their companies were surviving the recession, and offered tips for adapting to changes in consumer spending habits. Gordo credits this event with having spurred much of his firm's growth. Here are his tips for advisors hoping to launching a similar event.

Images: Fotolia

1. Know your audience 1. Know your audience

Provide content thatís unique and valuable to your audience. Supply them with information that addresses their financial concerns; give them analysis that canít be obtained from other sources.

In our case, we brought in business superstars who were weathering the economic storm of the recession. They told the audience how they kept their operations afloat and presented actionable ideas on how they too could thrive in any economic condition, Gordo says.

2. Give realistic advice. 2. Give realistic advice.

Donít sugarcoat the truth.

Gordo recommends: At our event, we didnít try to hide the fact that the economy is recovering slowly, and that it could be a long time -- if ever -- before business returns to normal. In our presentations, we didnít try to gloss over this fact. Be real.

3. Donít use bait-and-switch tactics. 3. Donít use bait-and-switch tactics.

Donít invite the audience to an informational event and then launch into an advertisement for your financial planning practice. You might get a big turnout -- but only once. A savvy audience is on guard against a sales pitch, whether obvious or hidden. If you skip the sales pitch and deliver unbiased information, youíll convince the audience that you have their best interests in mind, Gordo says.

4. Choose known participants, such as local business celebrities. 4. Choose known participants, such as local business celebrities.

Find leaders and experts with a proven track record and an aura of authority. You are judged by the company you keep: when you share the stage with experts and leaders, you yourself look like an expert and leader. For our events, we recruited high-achievers in real estate, manufacturing, and educationópeople well known in our locality. This strategy gave us instant credibility.

5. Keep yourself in the background. 5. Keep yourself in the background.

Participate in the event, but yield the spotlight to your speakers, Gordo advises.

A good rule of thumb is to give your speakers 15 to 20 minutes each for prepared comments and then moderate a panel discussion for questions and answers. The main point, again, is to avoid making the event all about you.

6. Give the event a local angle. 6. Give the event a local angle.

Because national media outlets focus mainly on the national economy and local new sources face ever tightening budgets, regional economic news gets less attention. As a result, Americans outside of the major media markets are often starved for insight about economic conditions in their communities. This offers an opportunity to deal with those issues and fill in some gaps.

One big issue on everyoneís mind here is the housing market, he says. We decided one year to call in the CEO of a successful real estate company that has operated in our city for over 60 years for a talk on the local real estate market.

7. Provide networking opportunities. 7. Provide networking opportunities.

Give the attendees a way to interact with you and each other. The chance to connect with like-minded people gives your audience an extra incentive to show up.

We set up several breakout sessions that occurred after the main event, says Gordo. These sessions took place concurrently in smaller rooms inside the main venue, giving the audience an opportunity to learn more about particular topics -- such as real estate, estate and financial planning, and protecting yourself online.

These sessions also gave Gordo and his colleagues a chance to exchange ideas, see new faces and better understand the members of the community.

8. Take the next step. 8. Take the next step.

Every community, big or small, has celebrity business owners who like to give back to the community, Gordo says -- and sharing their knowledge is one way to do that.

If you enlist the help of these business leaders, you give the community a great way to access busy people who might otherwise be unreachable. Get to know these people in your community now. Theyíre your greatest resource.

Read Gordoís My Word here.