How many people do you know who actually enjoy networking? If you’re like most people, you find it awkward or uncomfortable, and if you’re an introvert, it might even feel excruciating.
But you know that effective networking is crucial for building your business, or your career, or whether you’re looking for a new job. Excellent networking skills are essential if you want to get ahead.
As an entrepreneur starting out or trying to grow your business your personal network is critical. It’s not only where you get information, it also helps you get your first customers, develop your business and provide a continuous source of new customers. Often networking is a great way to meet like minded people who energize and inspire you.
As a business owner, you need to be consistently networking – it’s an essential skill. Networking opens a world of opportunities for you to meet business partners, find new markets for your products and services, supplies, staff or even help you take your company global.
When you can sell through your network, it is an easier path to sales, it makes it a warm lead-in to a sales opportunity. Everything you do in your life is with with people and through people – this is a skill that can be learned and it has a direct impact on the success of your business and your life. Networking is what builds word of mouth referrals
So how can you make it less stressful? Try these tips to get more out of your network, and maybe you’ll even enjoy it!
Do your homework
You wouldn’t dream of going to a meeting without preparing, would you? Treat networking events the same. Find out as much as you can about the event, who’s organizing it, and who will be there. Check out the networking organization, their social channels and arm yourself with knowledge, so you have two or three topics of conversation to help break the ice and start connecting with other attendees.
Find yourself a role/job
If it’s appropriate, see if there’s any way you can volunteer to help out. If you have some official position, you have a ready-made pretext to connect with people. Make sure to check in with the organizers first, but maybe they could do with some extra people to staff the registration desk or set out welcome packs. Perhaps you could offer to take event photos or live Tweet. At question time, you could help pass the microphone.
Take a friend
Who says you have to go to networking events alone? It will feel much better if you invite a friend or colleague to share the learnings. Not only will you feel braver about connecting, but you’ll also likely look more approachable than if you’re standing alone radiating anxiety.
Find the key networker
You can take the stress off yourself by looking around to find the extrovert, the natural networker who knows everyone. In any big group, there will always be one or two people who are enjoying connecting with people. Find that person and benefit from their positive networking. Follow in their wake, and you will find it much easier to join in the conversation. Let them know you are new or don’t know anyone – they’d be only to help!
Turn it into a game
Try taking the heat off yourself by turning networking into a game. Before you go, make yourself a list or even a bingo card of things you want to achieve. Your networking goals can include things like connecting with two people, handing your business card to five people, connecting on LinkedIn with three people etc.
Look into groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that are local to you to find networking events – they can be in person or online. Look for groups pertaining to your industry, your target audience or your geographic location.
I have had much success in gaining opportunities by networking online and in person. I have always believed in helping others and being the go to person for those who know me.
If you’d like help in building your plan to build your network, connect with me – it’s on of my favourite things to do!