Networking can be a frightful concept to some people. Even to this day I still find it a very intimidating environment. You walk in to a room of thirty people and immediately head to the coffee table. Why? Because you look busy, you can hold a cup in your hand (defensive pose), and it gives you the comfort of looking preoccupied.
On the inside, the majority of us will walk into the room and be filled with apprehension. Although logic suggests that everyone is there to socialise, emotions are hard to control and the fear of rejection seeps through. This is normal. I’ve attended seminars where even the most confident speakers have admitted feeling fear.
So what comes first?
LOGIC– everyone is there to mingle, talk about their businesses and see if they can help anyone. It’s important to remind yourself of this. Ignore those little insecurities and be bold.
Walk into that room with the knowledge that there are plenty of people who feel just like you. If you need a drink then head to the beverages BUT talk to the people who are pouring themselves a drink. The chances are they are doing the same thing as you so are welcoming a conversation from you.
STOP doubting yourself, it doesn’t matter that you are young, female, male, short, tall, old, have an odd business that’s hard to explain, or that your competitor is in the room. Just be yourself at all times and remember NOT TO look at everyone’s name tag and the company they work for. You are failing to think about the benefits of everyone in that room the moment you do this.
One key thing about networking:
YOU ARE NOT TRYING TO SELL YOUR BUSINESS TO THE PEOPLE IN THE ROOM. YOU ARE TRYING TO BUILD A RELATIONSHIP AND USE THE CONNECTIONS THAT THESE PEOPLE HAVE.
A common mistake for most people at networking events is they try to sell you their business from the moment you have introduced yourself. You listen to their business and all you are thinking is how could my business fit in with this company? If they offer something you don’t need you disregard their business card. They will do the same. If you begin to realise that neither you can help each other directly but you may have contacts to share then you immediately open your network up to a wealth of opportunities. If you spoke to the thirty people in that room and they each had five connections worth knowing, then you will have extended your reach to 150 businesses.
It’s comforting to stick with the person you introduced yourself to. It is often hard to leave the conversation even when you are both tired of each other’s company. So leaving a conversation politely is something that you need to remember. Whilst standing with that person, ensure your posture is open and welcoming. Standing face to face with one another is a closed position that will prevent other people from engaging. Standing side by side will welcome people to join in which allows you to leave politely while the other person is engaged. If however this opportunity does not arrive politely say something along the lines of “it’s been a pleasure meeting you today, best introduce myself to a few more people but thank you for your time, I will be in touch very shortly.”
After the event.
Contact the people you spoke to as soon as you can. Email them within 24 hours, add them on LinkedIn, and call them after a few days. Keep yourself fresh in their minds. Networking is not a hunt, it’s like farming. You develop your relationship and get to know that person. You build trust, support one another and then you will naturally choose to promote each other.
When you are interacting with people you need to leave your mark. This can be very difficult to do if there are a large amount of people. You need to ensure that when a person picks up your business card they remember your face, your personality and how you can help them. The best way to leave your mark is to take a pen with you. When you hand over your business card write something on it in front of them. This will take them out of their card swapping tradition and make them think. I draw a smiley face and say “hopefully you won’t forget me now” as I smile an awful lot. This has proven to be a huge success for me.