Do you avoid networking events? Or, do you go to events, only to feel awkward, try to look busy, hurry to the bathroom, fake a phone call or scroll aimlessly through your phone?
Networking is a crucial part of doing business and being successful. If you cringe at the idea of going to an event full of strangers, and making connections there, then DON’T WORRY – there are ways of networking that you can actually ENJOY!!
Here is my 7-step tried-and-tested approach to networking to help you shine and thrive at a board meeting, conference, or networking event:
1. Less is more
Be selective about which events you will go to and which you will skip. Shining bright at one event is smarter and more effective than struggling into every networking opportunity crossing your path. Let go of what you should do; and free yourself up to what appeals!
2. Prepare for your first impression
Don’t just show up for the event and decide “I had better network and make good connections” and get overwhelmed. Set aside some time to plan BEFORE each event. Decide why you are going, what a good outcome would be, what you will say about yourself and when you will leave. You will feel so much better about the event just doing that!
So your event plan might be something like : “I will make sure to speak to 4 new interesting people and introduce what I do and my services to them. If I am not having fun or getting anywhere by 2 pm, I will allow myself to leave”.
3. Arrive early
Not because it is polite, but just because it is a lot easier to start conversations with people who have just arrived than people who are already there and entrenched in other conversations.
4. Ask Questions
Questions are beautiful ways to start talking to people. Ask them about something you both have in common e.g. the event you are at. “So, what did you think of that first speaker?” “What do you do?” When you ask people questions and show a genuine interest in them, it makes them feel good and they remember you. Also, they will start asking about you and what you do as well.
Many of us dislike networking events because we don’t know what to say to a group of strangers. Free floating through a room is equivalent for us to free-floating anxiety. Instead, volunteer to help out. This gives you a purpose and a reason to approach people and for people to approach you. Even better, it makes you be seen AND you position yourself as someone helpful and powerful.
I volunteered at my children’s school parent committees as a way to meet new parents and get known. I volunteered at the HR committee of the AmCham to meet new people in the industry and have a reason to talk to people and network with them…..Very impactful !!
6. Look for others who are alone
It is much easier to approach one person or a small group, and chances are, they probably feel the exact same way you feel. Kind of nervous, and not sure how to start a conversation, so if they have open body language, just walk up, introduce yourself and start talking.
You will find these people standing quietly at the corners of the room, or beside the buffet table. Another great place to find them is waiting at their tables inside the conference room while the networking bees are out in the networking hall busy networking!
7. Send a “nice to meet you” follow up note
“People will forget what you say. People will forget what you do. But they will never forget how you made them feel” Maya Angelou
If you’re not following up, you’re not networking! Write personalized follow-up messages to everyone you connected with within two days, and make sure to mention something personal about the conversation such as how inspired you were by what they do. Be useful – include an article link, provide relevant information, or connect your new acquaintance with a valuable resource, and also include your business profile in case you could be of any further assistance to them.
Almost nobody does this, and not only is it classy and will it make them feel good, but you never know when you might need to reach out to this person again. So, then if you do, you will have reached out to them and were nice to them when you didn’t need anything from them not just because there is a benefit !
Try these steps out and please take the time to share your feedback….
Which one of these resonated with you the most? Or, do you have a tip that you would like to share with other leaders to help them do networking that is actually fun and effective?