One of the biggest buzzwords in the WORLD today is: Networking. Do it or die. That’s the word on the street. It’s the cure for everything. People tell you that if you don’t do it you’ll never get a job, build your business, get ahead or even succeed at finding love! It is a term that’s thrown around a lot. But HOW do you do it well? Here are a few common questions and several not-necessarily-common answers.
Q: What’s one simple thing I can do to start networking today?
A: Get OUT. Technology is amazing but business will never be done totally virtually. You’ll find more client leads, authentic connections, and plain old fun, when you log off, leave your office, and go in search of human contact! There are a lot of great ways to find events in your area. Check websites like Meet Up and your local Chamber of Commerce. Use your powerful online know-how to help you get offline!
Q: How can I find an event where I’ll be sure to meet potential clients?
A: Good question. It’s easier to tell you where you won’t find them… at a networking event for people in your industry. It sounds obvious but it’s a common mistake that business owners make. Let’s say you’ve got a marketing business and you go to an event for marketing professionals. After all, you know a colleague who is going to that event too, so you’ll have a wingman or woman. Unless your product or service is for people in your industry, then going to that event to meet potential clients is like grocery shopping in your own refrigerator. You know exactly what you’ll find and it’s not fresh. So if you’re looking for clients who need marketing services then go to events that might attract your ideal client – like a networking event for legal professionals. They need marketing!
Q: What’s the best way to make the most of an event?
A: Stop talking to your friends. (And re-read the paragraph above!) How many times have you gone to an event, spotted another business owner you’ve become friends with, and spent the whole event talking to them? It’s so much more comfortable to do that than try to strike up a conversation with someone new. But you won’t be expanding your personal network if you don’t step out of that comfort zone a little. Set an intention for the event. For instance you could strive to meet three new people before you leave.
Q: How many business cards should I try to get?
A: That depends. Are they cards from people who truly are potential clients for your products or services? Or are you just trying to collect the most business cards? The bottom line is it’s not about cards. It’s about people – making a connection with an individual who may or may not be a potential client. They might be the person who will refer your future best client to you! But you won’t know any of that until you get to know the person carrying the business card.
Q: How do you successfully network when you’re more comfortable having an MRI than meeting new people?
Smile. It sounds ridiculous but it’s the first step in any new relationship. And that’s what you’re ultimately shooting for – meeting someone and building a relationship that will make it easier to go to other networking events and not feel awkward because you’ll know people! Well, it doesn’t necessarily work that way but the point is it’s easier to meet someone who’s smiling than someone with a blank or anxious look on his or her face, right? You’ll look like the coolest; most relaxed person in the room just because you’re smiling. So whenever you start to feel tongue-tied, take a deep breath in (don’t forget to let it out) and smile. You’ll feel better and you’ll put other people at ease (trust me, they’re just as uncomfortable as you are). In addition, it’s a scientific fact that if you smile more you will feel better. So, seriously, smile!
Edited by Melinda Thomas. More information at www.melindathomascreative.com