Networking is one of the most powerful, effective and exciting ways to grow our businesses and yet most people do it rather badly or not at all!
I have worked with and talked to many outwardly very professional and confident people who share a common fear of the whole networking experience!
For most of them, the biggest fear is walking into a room full of strangers and breaking into a group of people who are already engaged in conversation.
We all suffer from the ‘gremlin on the shoulder’ negative self-talk syndrome.
We ask ourselves what we have to offer such a group of professional, confident, intelligent people?
How can we possibly contribute anything useful to their intellectual conversations?
Why would they want to meet us when the room is full of really bright, interesting people?
You are not alone! 80% of the people in the room are feeling exactly the same, they are just better actors than you!
To feel confident in networking, it’s important to get really clear on why you are there. This might sound very obvious, however many people find themselves thrown into networking at a conference or an event and they really have no idea what they want to achieve by meeting new contacts.
Some people network to ‘sell, sell, sell’ and find themselves being given a wide berth at future events with no sales and no trusting connections.
Others network regularly with no clear goals or outcomes in mind and therefore experience little or no success.
Networking is an investment of your time and energy to build relationships with like-minded people for mutual support, advice, referrals, suppliers and business and personal growth. It requires commitment from you to attend regularly, to listen to understand and to give before you receive.
Think of it like an emotional bank account – you have to make some good deposits before you will see a return on your investment and be patient, your time will come!
Here some Top Tips to make the most out of every networking event and to turn those feelings of dread into feelings of anticipation and excitement.
- Set an outcome for every event –
- Why are you there?
- What are you hoping to achieve?
- Who would be an ideal person for you to meet?
- What do you need in your business right now?
2. What can you give?
- What are the benefits you and your business offer?
- How can you help the people in the room?
- Who can you connect them with?
- What support or advice can you give?
- ‘What do you do?’ What will be your answer to that frequently asked question –
- Prepare and practice your answer until it trips easily off your tongue.
- Talk benefits of what you offer, don’t just give a job ‘title’.
- Make it interesting and intriguing so they ask ‘how do you do that?’
- Be prepared to expand on your offerings with a brief and recent example of success.
- Instant Impact -you have a tenth of a second to make that vital 1st impression so make it count every time.
- Always look professional, don’t just turn up in the first thing that came to hand as you got out of bed!
- Wear something you feel good in, it will do wonders for your confidence.
- Be well groomed, it shows you respect the company and the event is important to you.
- Manage your mindset -if you are stressed or angry or fearful, it will show in your body language as you walk in. Take a few moments before you walk in to do some deep breathing and some positive self-talk. Remind yourself of the benefits you offer your clients. Think about the feedback you get from your best customers. Think of something you are proud of, something you are grateful for or someone you love. You will walk in with a positive energy which people will sense when they meet you.
Remember thoughts become feelings, feelings become actions and actions become results!
- Get there early, allow extra time for traffic and aim to be there at least 30 mins before the official start time.
- It gives you time to get into that positive mindset.
- It gives you a chance to remind yourself of your objective before you walk in.
- You can be in the room, registered for the event, deposited your belongings, have a drink in hand and be ready to meet and greet anyone who comes through the door. It is much easier to be in the room, waiting for people to arrive than it is to walk into a room full of people already engaged in conversations.
- Be a host! By making newcomers feel welcome and showing them where to register, get a drink etc., you are making them feel at ease right away and starting the relationship in a very positive and giving way. Remember, everyone feels nervous when they are walking into a room full of strangers.
- Be totally present –
- Give the ‘gift of undiluted listening’ -listen to understand instead of thinking about what clever question you can ask next or what you are going to say when they ask you what you do.
- Maintain eye contact instead of scanning the room or watching who is coming in.
- Ask open questions that elicit a detailed response and fire up the conversation. e.g. What is your area of expertise? What area of your business are you focusing on right now? What are your biggest challenges? Who would you like to meet today?
- Ask how you can help them, think of ideal people to connect them to or information you can send them that would be useful for them right now.
What goes around comes around – by supporting others and showing an interest in them, they are highly likely to reciprocate and either use your services or recommend you to people who can.
You will be seen as a ‘giver’ -someone who is prepared to give their valuable time to support other businesses.
Finally follow up – there is little point in attending events and making great connections if you don’t follow up and this needs to be done immediately. So as you put the dates in your diary this month, also build in some follow up time afterwards so you can connect online, send relevant information, make appointments and build on the relationships you have started or nurtured on the day.
You will find yourself building a network of trusted advisors, grateful clients, raving fans and some lifelong friends.
Are you feeling excited yet?
In the words of the fabulous Maya Angelou –
“People may not remember what you said, they may not remember what you do but they will always remember the way you made them feel.”