When Networking at a Financial Services Event, Know Your Differentiator
At Gregory FCA, we are given regular opportunities to attend industry events, conferences and networking gatherings to represent our firm and learn more about the industries we serve. We operate at the intersection of the financial services industry and the world of public relations, and these events are a prime opportunity to grow our understanding of the people and trends that most impact our work.
One of the most important elements of attending these industry events is the networking aspect, which doesn’t come naturally to everyone. While many can strike up a conversation with ease, few take the time to strategize about how they will stand out in a crowd and walk away with meaningful connections.
Recently, a few members of our team attended a Philadelphia Business Journal Banker Bash event where Jay Sidhu, Chairman and CEO of Customers Bancorp, spoke about his experience in the industry and how it has shaped the CEO he is today. One of the points he emphasized was the importance of knowing your differentiator in order to stand out from the pack, which is also essential to successful networking.
With thousands of financial service firms in existence, being aware of what differentiates you in your area of expertise can help you be successful when intermixing with other finance virtuosos. The following tips are key to successfully networking and leaving a lasting impression.
- Don’t be shy, strike up a conversation. Banking? Retirement? ETFs? Even if you don’t have an immediate connection to the central topic or theme of an event, you can still make inroads with attendees by sharing a bit about yourself and your area of expertise. What sets you apart can lead to a great conversation, and you never know when your differentiator could be someone’s next business venture, investment, partnership, etc.
- Ask pointed questions. Showing you’re interested in their line of work and not just speaking about yourself is important to making a connection at any networking event. Instead of just asking what someone does, set the pace for your conversation by asking specific questions about their career and finding ways you can relate. This offers you the opportunity to not only direct the conversation to your specialty, but will make you more memorable for having been genuinely interested in their line of work, as well.
- Leave an impression, not just another business card. Before wrapping up your conversations, whether it’s one-on-one or within a group of new contacts, revisit some of your opening lines to reaffirm what differentiates you within the financial services industry. A simple verbal reminder or jotting down a few takeaways from your conversation onto your business card could serve as one more connected “link” in your network. Additionally, don’t forget to follow up and connect with those you met via LinkedIn, including a personal message as a reminder of your conversation when you send your invitation.
Do you have a financial services event or conference on the horizon? Keep in mind as you register for the event, get on the plane, or drive to the venue how you will differentiate yourself from the hundreds (sometimes even thousands!) of attendees. Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours?
Editor’s Note: This post is a collaboration between Jessica and another member of the Gregory FCA team, Jen Diehl.