I am one of those annoying people who actually loves networking. No joke. Going into a room full of strangers with no idea who will be there (and if I’ll get along with any of them) is strangely enjoyable to me…. maybe because I love meeting new people?
In any case, I COMPLETELY understand why it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and if your fear of networking is remotely as bad as my fear of public speaking, I can understand 100% why you’d want to avoid it like the plague. However, if you read my blog last week, one of the best ways to grow your business (quickly and cheaply) is through partnerships, and the fastest way to develop trust and connection is face to face. Read– networking is a really, really good thing for your business.
So, to help you out, I’ve put together my top networking tips to minimise your stress and make connecting with others something you’ll look forward to!
1.Control the environment
By this I mean manage as much of the situation as you can. I personally think that arriving bang on time is a great idea. This way you’ll be one of the first there who people will be chatting to rather than one of the last. Another idea is to choose events at venues that make you feel relaxed- you might feel more at home at a bar, or more comfortable at a breakfast, just pick events in environments where you are more likely to relax.
2. Put your best foot forward
When you FEEL confident, you are more likely to act confident. Think about what makes you feel good, and do it! Maybe it’s dressing in a new outfit? Or perhaps heels make you feel like a million dollars? For me, it is having a blow dry! When I’ve had my hair blow dried, I know I walk with a bit of a strut in my step 😉 and it gives me an extra boost of confidence.
3. Calm your nerves
Before you walk in, make sure you are feeling good. If having a cheeky glass of wine helps calm your nerves, then I say go for it (note- you do not put your best forward if you drink too much, so just limit it to the one!). Or maybe you love meditation, if so, arrive early and take 10 minutes to get yourself into a positive state of mind. Or just take 4 big deep breaths before you walk in
4. Take a networking buddy
This one is INVALUABLE if you hate having to introduce yourself or worse, cut in on a group. If you go along with someone else, you have a built in cheersquad! Arrange to meet beforehand and walk in together so you are at ease from the start. A great person to pick as your buddy is someone who 1) you feel really comfortable with and 2) is a bit more outgoing than you and is happy to do the uncomfortable introduction to strangers on your behalf.
5. Practice makes perfect
Networking (like public speaking) really does get easier the more you do it! And obviously, the more frequently you are attending events, the more people you will meet and the more likely you are to meet potential customers and business partners! I would suggest that attending an event once a fortnight is a good amount to attend events.
6. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
There most likely will be awkward moments at these events, and this is normal! Just remind yourself that this is normal, and others probably feel the same. Practise ways to introduce yourself to others “Hey, I’m here on my own, do you guys mind if I hang out with you?”. Another thing that I do is approach a group and just listen in and nod along. Usually someone will look to include you in the group!
7. Push through it.
WHAATT??? You are probably thinking, I thought you were going to tell me how to make it comfortable? But bear with me on this one. Networking is a bit like exercising. Sometimes you don’t feel like it, but if you just do it anyway, usually afterwards you think ‘Wow, that was amazing’!!! I know that when I was organising events, getting attendees to sign up was like pulling teeth but then afterwards everyone would be “That was fantastic! We need to do these more often”. So even if you don’t feel like it, make yourself go along and know that afterwards the benefits will outweigh that short term pain.
Once you’ve got past the hurdle of getting there, in terms of the actual process of networking:
Not everyone will like you but that’s ok! Just be open and honest, and know that the right connections will be made people who click with the real you.
Seek to connect rather than sell
Women buy from people they like and no one likes being “sold to”. Ask lots of questions and take a genuine interest in others. If you do connect with someone, be sure to swap details, be it a business card, or phone numbers and make sure you follow up.
Quality over quantity
It is better to make a great connection and have 1 or 2 quality conversations rather than 20 superficial ones. If you are racing around trying to get your ‘numbers up’ you are likely to miss the connection. And it’s surprising the people that you can have a professional connection to, even if they are in an unrelated field.
Networking doesn’t need to be a chore, in fact it can even be fun when you know how! If you want to receive more articles like this one relating to all areas of business, sign up for my newsletter here.