Many entrepreneurs and new business owners dread networking. They don’t achieve their outcomes, but I’ve found these 6 tips have helped me.
I’ve found that when people talk about ‘Networking’ in business, they can mean one of three things:
- Regular networking groups (which I’m disparaging in a series of networking posts over at Successful Men’s Business);
- the super broad definition of ‘creating a network of people I like’ (a rarer, though stronger, definition); or
- their attendance at events, whether informal or structured.
It’s this last category that I find can be ‘hit and miss’ for business owners or sales professionals. Part of this is being invited to the right kind of events, but in my 9 years building a coaching business there are 6 Simple Tips that have helped me maximise the value of my attendance. I hope you find these as helpful as my 3 Simple Sales Tips post.
- If you’re struggling to talk to anyone and not confident enough to walk up to a group and interrupt, look for other ‘solo’ people around the room and approach them. They’ll be grateful you took the step.
- An excellent question, rather than ‘what do you do?’, is ‘what are you hoping to get from this event?‘ As you move around the room or get to know people over the course of several events, you’ll be in a position to start connecting people. ‘Oh, you wanted to learn more about Brand strategy. Have you met Belinda, I spoke to her last month and her main business builds amazing brands, let me introduce you.’
- Be aware of what you want – the most disappointing events, in my experience, have been those where I had only a vague intent to ‘meet some people’. Now I’m always clear, whether it’s sales-specific activity or a search for partnership opportunities, I even set myself targets for the number of meaningful conversations, and follow-up agreements planned. When you meet the people you want, be sure to ask for permission to do a specific follow-up – ‘Hey, do you mind if I call you next week and buy you coffee sometime? I’d love to learn a little more about what you do and your experience.’ This makes the follow-up a lot easier.
- Get good at extracting yourself from a conversation. This is hard when you’re back at tip #1 and still working out how to get into a conversation, but there’s nothing worse than spending 30+ minutes stuck talking to someone you don’t connect with just because you can’t escape. The introduction route is excellent for this – put two people together, then move on. I also tend to stand with space to my side rather than forming a closed circle – this is a cue to others that you are open to being joined in conversation. If necessary, of course, employ the ‘Well, I’m going to grab another drink / duck to the men’s room, nice meeting you’ line.
- The best conversations usually happen at the start and the very end of the event, when the crowd thins out. Plan to be there for either / both, rather than just dropping in for the middle.
- Connect with the Host/s. As a combination of the factors above, this works excellently when you:
- Arrive early (or on time, since many people will be fashionably late)
- Introduce yourself strongly, and ask if they need help with any final preparation
- Ask what they are hoping to achieve from the evening, and share what you are looking for
- Be prepared to exit the conversation – they need to be meeting and greeting their other guests, and by having combined several of these tips you have also made it super easy for them to connect other attendees with you throughout the event. There are few positioning statements stronger than being introduced by the host of the event!
- Be sure to thank them on your way out as well.
And please tell your friends: Sharing is Caring
Share your simple networking tips in the comments below. Good luck!