The power of networking is no secret. It’s essential for learning, developing and growing your business, whether you are just starting out or have established a successful company.
I recently hosted a VIP Strategy Day (at The Shard!) and a GSD Society meet-up, both of which were fantastic opportunities to connect with like-minded women. But naturally, for some, even the thought of attending a networking event like these can be daunting.
Today I want to share my 5 top tips for offline networking so you feel less overwhelmed and more confident when heading out to events (like mine) that can really open up opportunities for your business…
TIP #1: WORK ON YOUR CONFIDENCE ON A DAILY BASIS
Before going out into the big wide world of business networking, it’s a good idea to work on building up your confidence in everyday scenarios.
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you have thought about networking or you have dipped your toe in the water and want to do more of it. Usually, it’s our confidence which stops us, so I really recommend taking small steps forward to increase yours each day.
Whether you work with a confidence coach (like my friend, Lucy Baker) or you implement some of my suggestions from my article on The Huffington Post (10 Easy Ways to Get More Confidence Right Now), you can get started today and feel more positive about networking situations.
TIP #2: GET SOME PRACTISE IN AND DO SOME RESEARCH ONLINE FIRST
In that article, I talk about doing your homework before attending any events. Social media is not only a great way to make people aware of your business, but it also gives you the chance to practise talking and listening, as well as finding out more about those who might be there.
Facebook Groups and Twitter chats make it so easy to get involved in conversations and to start your own online. Plus with the likes of Facebook Events, hashtags and host accounts, you’re almost certain to find at least one other person who is heading to the same event as you.
TIP #3: BE PREPARED: ELEVATOR PITCH, BUSINESS CARDS, ICEBREAKERS, POLITE CONVERSATION-ENDERS
Go into events as prepared as possible, but don’t overthink it to the point you put yourself off!
Remember, you know your own business so own it! Work out a short opening line or two (called your elevator pitch), which takes less than 60 seconds to communicate, about what your business does and who you work with. Make it to the point but interesting so that the person/people you are speaking to, want to know more and will ask questions. Practise saying this and getting comfortable with it. Test it on people you know, trial various versions of it online, but most of all, really feel and believe it. If you cringe when saying it, people will pick up on that!
To get to the point of being able to deliver your elevator pitch, you might need to approach people yourself. Therefore you need to have something to say rather than diving straight in with blatant self-promo or an awkward ice-breaker! People love to talk about themselves, so prepare 2-3 opening questions in your mind which will give them the opportunity to do so. This takes the pressure off you and gives you a few minutes to get a feel for them and to take a breath before sharing what it is you do.
As you’ll see in tip #5 below, you need to go into each conversation with an open mind. But with that being said, it doesn’t mean you have to stay longer than you need to or can’t dip out when it’s not for you. Consider how you would like someone to politely leave a conversation with you and have a few ideas for if you find yourself in this situation. It’s much better to have something in mind than to stand there trying to come up with an excuse to leave and not paying attention to what’s being said.
Also, don’t forget to take your business cards with you. These do not need to be expensive but they are essential. They should have your contact details on, reinforce your brand, be up to date and make you memorable. Bonus tip: do not hand them out to everyone you see – focus on quality rather than quantity of contacts made.
TIP #4: START WITH A TYPE OF EVENT WHICH SUITS YOU BEST / WHERE YOU ALREADY KNOW SOMEONE
If you are really feeling brave, try attending an event which is the most out of your comfort zone. When you do, you’ll realise it wasn’t as scary as you first thought and after that, they can only get easier.
If you’re not yet ready to push yourself, you can continue to do some work on your mindset, but also opt for an event which sounds like it’s the ideal size/situation for you and has someone you know going too.
The key here is that you just want to get started and stop holding off. You will absolutely become more confident with the more you attend and you’ll learn from each one too.
Remember, even the most extroverted people find themselves feeling nervous in some networking situations. It’s natural!
TIP #5: GO WITH AN OPEN MIND OR DON’T GO AT ALL
I want to be really clear here. Not all networking events are equal.
Sometimes you will come across somebody you had hoped you’d meet, sometimes you will come across somebody you never thought you’d meet but it was so good that you did, and sometimes you will come away thinking it was a complete waste of time.
Ultimately, you need to decide with each event whether you think it will be worthwhile. This is completely different to making excuses and exactly why I recommend doing your research.
The time not going to the networking event could be spent doing something else for your business, or focusing on self-care, or spent with your family. If you decide to go, you need to go with an open mind – you never know who people know!
And if you decide not to go, forget the FOMO. As long as you are trusting your intuition and doing your research (rather than just trying to get out of going because you lack confidence, are tired etc), you have to have faith that you made the right choice for you.
Like with anything, the more you do something, the more confident and experienced you become. Over time, you may find that you actually look forward to and enjoy attending networking events despite once having those initial feelings!
If you want to be invited to exclusive events for ambitious, determined female entrepreneurs like you,
PS, you might also like to read these articles by me:
GSD Society Meet-Upin Westminster,London.
Credit: Mikyla Silcott . VIP Strategy Day at The Shard, London.