Attending networking events used to be a huge part of the job of being a recruiter. But with so much of the industry now shifting online, are these events still a good use of our time?
Let’s take a look at some of the main pros and cons of building networking activities into our business development strategies, and consider whether we’re doing enough to maximise the events we do attend.
The perks of recruitment networking events
1. It looks good
If your recruiters (aka your brand) are seen out and about putting time into being at these events, this will always reflect well on the business.
Talking about the events you go to across your social networks also demonstrates you’ve always got your finger on the pulse and that you’re making the effort to be in the right places in order to stay on top of your industry.
In going to these events, your recruiters will feel encouraged to learn more about the industry they’re recruiting for, and really immerse themselves in their network – which is good for their self-development and good for your recruitment brand too.
2. People still buy from people
People remember people and faces much better than they remember names or voices on the phone, so regularly attending recruitment networking events will make your team more memorable to clients and prospects.
There’s a warm, fuzzy feeling about showing up to a room full of people who are all there with the same goal: To learn something, meet new people and hopefully take some value back to the office when they leave.
And if the connections you make on the day really feel that they have had a valuable chat with you – bingo! They’ll remember you and will no doubt seek you out when they need you.
3. Face-to-face events can pull recruiters out of their comfort zones
Networking is one of the best skills that a recruiter can be great at. Being forced to walk into a room full of strangers and work the room effectively is an awesome skill in the people business of recruitment, and in life more generally too!
I remember my first networking event so clearly: I pitched up alone, took a deep breath at the door and walked in saying to myself ‘I got this’. My intentions were great, but it didn’t quite go to plan. Making my way through a sea of black suits, I soon realised I’d walked into Funeral Directors' convention instead of the hip tech conference I was supposed to be at next door!
A quick pivot and sharp exit solved the problem, and it did give me a great opening line when I got to the right networking event. And yes, they all remembered me and took my follow up calls afterwards!
The drawbacks of recruitment networking events
1. ROI is hard to calculate, and results can be slow to come in
If you’re managing your business well, you’ll be obsessed with lead source and cost-to-acquire metrics. Networking events are so top-level in terms of your lead funnel: Great for brand awareness but completely untargeted, unquantifiable, and down to the skills of the recruiter hunting the right people to talk too.
And let’s face it – a less socially adept recruiter could end up getting stuck with the cloakroom attendant for the whole event and not be able to move on to the next person. A whole 3-5 hours out the office and nada to show for it!
2. Even the free events aren’t free
A day out the office is always costly, as the time your team is spending at events will be on your clock. By leaving the office, you’re forgiving the opportunity to target and call prospects they want to talk to, prospects they already know are hiring, or convert deals to get them over the line.
And then there’s the catch-up time. I’m not sure about you, but the amount of emails I receive in a 3-hour period never fails to shock me, and they don’t go away on their own. So, if I am out of the office, it’s a late night behind the laptop in the evening to catch up.
3. Online networking can be just as (if not more) fruitful
I appreciate that it’s nice to put faces to names by meeting people in the flesh, but the interaction you can have online, joining the event’s Twitter feed, and engaging in online discussions about the event can be really effective – and in some cases even more so.
When networking online, you can instantly see the background of every person contributing to discussion, assess whether they’re a target fit for your business, connect with them, chat to them and even arrange a video meeting afterwards. The number of quality conversations can quadruple, it’s fully traceable, and it doesn’t cost you a penny. A bit clinical, yes, but super effective.
However you structure your approach to networking, and whether or not you think they still serve a purpose in today’s busy schedule, you still always need to ensure the following: That you show up to every event prepared, have done your pre-event prep and have set a target of how many conversations or leads you want to create in order to justify the time allocated to the event.
Then most importantly of all, you need to review your results from the event a month after. This will help you answer the question of whether it suits your recruitment business to continue attending events or ditch them entirely and try some other business development activity.
Wendy McDougall is Chief Fish of Firefish Software. In her spare time, you'll find her playing squash or feeding her inner geek with the latest technology!