How to work the room and network like a pro
It’s not what you know; it’s who you know. Ask any successful business person and they will tell you it’s all about networking! A connection with even just one person can lead to endless possibilities. And in business that’s what we need. I met my first client at a networking event and worked with her for 10 years.
While my favourite networking platform is Linked In, I still believe that the best networking is done in person. I can hear some of you gasping! Yes, believe it or not, talking to people face to face really is a thing.
Don’t be disheartened if you are nervous or don’t think you don’t have what it takes to network, because you do. It just takes a bit of knowhow.
Make yourself known
You need to let others know you exist and set yourself apart from the crowd. There is where good networking skills come into play.
You need to let others know you exist and what you do by becoming highly visible and being set apart from the crowd, which is what good networking skills can provide. Be seen and get known. Look for interesting events to attend; clubs, associations, meetings, seminars, conferences, presentations, breakfast briefings, lunches, school events, play groups etc.
Be seen, be heard and get yourself out there.
Image is everything
To be a successful networker you need to build your confidence. Consider how you dress, speak and maintain your body language; aim to present a professional, positive image. While it may be daunting to begin with, especially if you are shy, work at it as persistence pays off.
Breaking the ice
When meeting new people in any situation, especially while networking, you must be genuine. I know when I meet someone new who is fake, and believe me I’ve met a few, I hightail it out of there as quickly as I can.
So take an interest in everyone you meet, remember their name, listen to them to understand their needs and how you could assist each other. Relationships are best built by offering information, ideas, resources, advice, support, and connections without any expectation of a return.
Take yourself out of your comfort zone and build relationships with as many people as you can.
Rehearse at home
While it is much easier to make a new contact when there is someone else to handle the introduction and pave the way it may not be possible so take the bull by the horns, walk up to people you don’t know, introduce yourself and start a conversation. This is easier if you have prepared a self-introduction in advance (have rehearsed in advance exactly what you are going to say about yourself when you first meet people).
And to get past your discomfort in talking to strangers, set a goal for yourself before you attend any networking event. Decide how many new contacts you want to make or how many strangers you want to meet. In some cases, you may specifically target individuals you’d like to know. If you don’t reach that target, don’t be too hard on yourself as there is always next time.
Being able to talk to anyone about anything is a valuable skill in its own right and essential in networking. Being able to initiate a conversation means you are more likely come into contact with people who may well turn out to be invaluable contacts.
Small talk can be difficult but have a few stock phrases up your sleeve such as “How did you get started in…..?”, “What do you particularly need to succeed?” “Where are you going with it next……?”
It really can help.
Networking is not totally about selling it is also about listening to the other person and showing them you are interested in them by active listening. Allow people to open up and talk freely. Give your undivided attention even if it is only for five minutes.
Take an interest in what’s said and acknowledge this by nodding or agreeing. Use positive body language such as facing them with lots of eye contact and add your comments where necessary.
Business card basics
I’m a full proponent of being a business card babe. Even though that’s what we did in the ‘olden days’, I still carry my business cards everywhere. I find that if I only connect on social while physically at an even, the next day I have no idea who the person I’ve connected with is.
If I also have a business card, I can put a face and business to a name and am more inclined to follow up.
On the topic of following up, it really is worth it.
If you told someone you’d get in touch with them, do it and reaffirm your intent to assist in any way you can. If you promised to introduce someone to a person you know, take the time to do it.
It doesn’t matter how you follow up, social, email or even a phone call, make sure you do it. You can make some very valuable and lucrative contacts this way.
So get yourself out there. You want everyone to know who you are.
Check out my other blogs, and if you need a PR campaign that will knock your socks off, or content that will blow your mind let’s chat.