No matter what your trade, no matter what size your business, networking matters. It can generate revenue or referrals, lead to new opportunities by making connections, help you get advice, raise your profile and you will probably make some new friends along the way.
If you’ve never done networking before, it might seem daunting. Fear not, it’s not as a scary as it first sounds. In fact, rather than thinking of your first networking event as a networking event, think of it as a getting to know people who want to help each other in business.
We’ve put together some points to keep in mind so you can become the next networking king or queen. They’ll help you relax, fit right in and get more out of your event.
Don’t try to sell
Don’t worry if you think you need to suddenly become a salesman. Trying to sell is only a small part of a networking event. Relax and be yourself. Get to know the other people there. Share some stories, make some new friends. That way they’ll get to know you, trust you, use you and recommend you.
Give don’t get
What we mean here is think ‘what can I give you’ rather than ‘what can I get from you’. This will help you relax and make you more confident as you’ll be talking about what you can offer someone. Which in turn, puts you in a better light.
Be a listener
It’s easy to get carried away when you’re nervous and talk about yourself. Instead, learn to listen to others. Ask lots of questions, find out what someone does and what their experience is. That way you can gain valuable insights from them as well as build a strong relationship.
You don’t need a big event to network. You can do it every day, albeit on a smaller scale. Every time you get the chance to chat to someone new, treat it as an opportunity to network. You never know where your next bit of business will come from.
Earlier we said you didn’t need to sell yourself. Well, it never hurts to be prepared. When someone wants to know more about you, your experience and what you can offer them, have a little tick list of what they need to know ready in your head. This doesn’t have to be a long, full-on pitch. Quite the opposite. Keep it short, highlighting what they need to know.
When you meet someone who is interested in what you have to offer, remember to follow up on it. Get in touch with them, even if it’s just to say it was nice to have met them and then keep in touch. If you’re not going to use their business card, you may as well have not taken it off them in the first place.
Keep on going
Don’t worry if you think you’re first event didn’t go as planned. Learn from it and go to others. The more you go to, the better you’ll get.
Relax and enjoy yourself. Networking is about meeting people. Some will be able to help you in business, some won’t. If you don’t want to be stressed or disappointed, then go with an open mind and a smile. You’ll find that by having fun you’ll get more out of every event you go to.