Few people would argue that networking is a great way to increase awareness around your business, brand and products; however, even fewer people look forward to walking in to a room of complete strangers and striking up conversation. How then, if you’re not the most outgoing of individuals, do you overcome those networking nerves and make a positive impact?
Do your research
Somehow you’ve heard about a networking event, and you’ve decided to check it out. Most organisations, whether they’re franchise groups, or local not for profit based organisations, will having a booking system, where you will register before going along.
That means there’s likely to be a website, and hopefully some social media presence. It therefore makes sense to spend some time doing some research about the organisation/group, and where possible, its members.
Have a look around to see who regularly attends and find out a bit more about them. If there is a published members list (we have one here) you could even go one step further and make a connection request via LinkedIn. This is a great opportunity to introduce yourself, and to ensure you will at least recognise a few people when you first walk in to the room. Having already connected online, you will have an immediate conversation opener when you find yourself face-to-face.
It’s really important to remember that effective networking is about building relationships, not making a sale. That said, you are going to want to be suitably prepared for when the inevitable question, “What do you do?”, comes your way. Rather than launching in to a huge sales pitch, offer your clear and concise answer, that should be designed to encourage further conversation.
Try and find a way to make your “job” or business sound more interesting than it might do usually. Rather than say you’re an accountant, perhaps say you specialise in helping businesses make a profit. I’ll never forget meeting a gentleman a few years ago who introduced himself as a builder; a builder of businesses. Whilst I have forgotten almost everyone else in that room, I will never forget him.
Don’t worry about being nervous
The reality is that the vast majority of people will be nervous, unless it’s a members group and everyone already knows each other. However, even if that is the case, every single one of those members will have been the new person once upon a time, so try to relax.
There’s no point in putting on a façade and pretending to be someone you’re not; you’ll never be able to keep it up and people will see through it eventually. Instead, just be yourself, and try to take a deep breath. Once you actually start talking to people you will find the conversation comes a lot easier.
Most importantly, don’t rush, and try to enjoy yourself!