It is a well-known truism that word-of-mouth is very helpful in starting or growing a therapy practice. You may have experienced it yourself, and we’ve certainly written about it before!
Word-of-mouth is a wonderful tool to grow your practice because therapy seekers trust the recommendations of their friends, doctors, and other therapists more than they trust most other sources of information. However, word-of-mouth can be challenging to build.
The difficulty of getting initial recommendations may encourage you to try networking events. Networking events are a great way to connect with other therapists, or professionals in other fields who may benefit from therapy.
It is important to have a strong strategy when attending networking events. Otherwise, you can spend the event collecting tens or hundreds of business cards only to see no results.
Networking events can also prompt feelings of overwhelm and anxiety.
For full disclosure, networking events have always intimidated me, but I promise that, if I can network, you can too. Here are my best tips to make the most of networking events, even if they prompt feelings of overwhelm (or even straight-up dread):
A single article from Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, completely changed how I think about networking. Initially, I was reluctant to network because, like many people, I thought networking was about asking strangers for help without offering anything in return. Instead, Grant suggests that you should focus on what you can contribute.
There are so many ways you can help others at or after networking events.
For example, if you get a number of inquiries from prospective clients with conditions or goals outside your specialty area, you could refer them to therapists you meet at the event (after building a relationship with the therapist).
Even if you are just starting your career, you may be able to share advice from other skills/interests in your life with more seasoned professionals. For me, social media and online writing are go-tos when I’m networking in new industries.
At the event, ask others about their background and what brought them to the networking event. You may find new and unique ways that you can help them in their answers.
Before the networking event, take a few minutes to think about what you want to achieve. Do you want to find a therapist or doctor who wants someone with your specialty to refer to? Are you hoping to connect with prospective clients from a particular professional background? Are you hoping to get to know more therapists who specialize in the same area as you?
It’s best to choose one or two goals per event and focus solely on those goals. Setting a clear aim will help you figure out which conversations to focus on and whether a given event can help you reach your goals.
Other attendees will ask you for information about your background and goals. So, it is helpful to have a quick explanation of who you are (in the context of the event) and what you’re looking for. That way, the other person can quickly figure out if and how they can help you.
If you have asked about the other person’s background/goals first (which I highly recommend), you can also tailor your answer to address their background.
Here’s an example of a brief intro:
“My name is Mariah, and I’m MyWellbeing’s marketing person. I’m here to learn more from therapists like you about the biggest marketing challenges you face.”
It can be tempting to speak with as many people as possible at events. However, quality of connections is far more important than quantity. If you meet someone who you can really help (and/or who can really help you), it’s great to spend more time with them so you can have a deeper conversation. It is better to form lasting connections from events than to meet as many people as possible.
This is the single best piece of advice I have for you. At my first few networking events, I was sure I would remember the engrossing conversations I had with people who gave me their business cards. However, at the end of the day, I looked at my collection of business cards and could not remember who said what.
In between conversations, take a moment to write a brief note on each new contact’s business card with a few details about your conversation. When possible, I usually include action steps coming out of our call. For example, if we talked about social media marketing, I would write something like “Instagram tips” to remember to send the person an article on Instagram marketing in my follow up.
Taking good notes makes it easier to. . .
How many times have you come out of a networking event really excited about potential connections, only to hear nothing after the events? You can increase the chances that events will lead to lasting connections by following up with the people you met.
In your follow-up, mention something specific you discussed to help the person remember you (thank you, business card notes!). I also really like to share a specific resource based on our conversation when possible to provide more help.
You can also gently remind the person of anything that they offered you or make it easier for them to provide what they suggested. For example, if they were excited to refer clients to you, you could add a few sentences with an explanation of your intake processes and your contact information for them to share with clients. Don’t forget to thank them for their time and attention and to offer to help in return if possible.
This tip really helped me overcome my reluctance to network. Networking should be a mutually beneficial relationship. Start conversations at networking events by asking about the other person’s background and goals and thinking about how you could support them. Thinking about how you can help others can help you overcome the awkwardness of networking.
If networking events make you nervous, going with a friend can help you overcome the initial nerves about going to an event. However, you should try approaching people at the event on your own to make connections, even if your friend is there.
Finally, networking is a skill that you can improve with practice. Try attending a few different events and different types of events to get used to networking. If you are really feeling overwhelmed, try roleplaying networking conversations with friends and loved ones. It may feel difficult now, but networking does get easier with time.
We are so excited to see the connections and insights that come out of networking events. As a result, we started offering our own gatherings for clinicians to meet and form relationships with other therapists.
If you’re in New York City, we would be delighted to have you join us.
If you’re not in New York City but you’d like to join our events, let us know that we should come to your city.
Best of luck with your networking events!
Match with the *right* clients for your practice while growing your professional community.