Networking, some hate it, some love it, depending on who you ask. The value in networking is making the right connection which can lead to so many opportunities. The aim, is to build, strong, meaningful relationships. Networking is key to marketing yourself as a brand, or your business. I think everyone, even if you aren't a business owner, should attend at least one networking event, per month.
Most entrepreneurs rely heavily on social media to grow their business but for me, networking, has helped me tremendously, in my business! Truth be told, I absolutely hated the idea of networking events. I'm not comfortable walking up to people and introducing myself. But then I realized, I have to step outside of my comfort zone, because that's the area that will lead me towards my goals.
I'm glad I did! I've been able to meet some wonderful, passionate people, particularly within the last few months! I've partnered on a few projects with various people from key role players in tech startup, culinary entrepreneurs, to bank executives. Here's a few tips that helped me get a little more comfortable with networking:
Bring business cards
I don't care if you're running to the grocery store to buy wine and cookies, always have your business cards on you. You may meet your next customer standing in line
Ditch the pitch
You don't have to wear your "salesman" hat (or women hat) all of the time. Take it off. Spark up a conversation about common interests as opposed to jumping into what you do for a living and vice versa. Something as simple as "how's your day". If food us being served at a Networking event, comment on the food. Had trouble parking by the event space? Start the conversation on asking about the nearest parking garage. The point is to make the conversation as casual as possible.
The smaller the better
Are you an "introvert"? Do large groups make you feel uncomfortable? Try attending a smaller event with less people. Introverted personalities, tend to work well in smaller groups or intimate settings .
Co working space
Co working spaces aren't designated for entrepreneurs to occupy spaces. Many of them offer workshops and seminars to their members. Stop by your local Co working space and fond out if you can host a free workshop. It's a great way to market your brand, while providing valuable information to your target audience.
It's not a race or marathon
Chill, relax and enjoy yourself. The object is to connect with the right people. It's not necessary to collect '10 business cards from 10 people' before leaving an event. Why even put that kind of pressure on yourself? Sometimes you can meet one or two great connections. That one person, may be more valuable than the 10 people who won't remember your name, nor return your phone call or email.
Do you dread the idea of attending networking events because of the duration of the event? "I really want to go but it's from 2:00 to 6:00". Commit to 1 hour and leave. You don't have to stay for the duration of the event. Just show up, meet and greet, then you're done!
Find the bar or food station
Some of the best conversations are held over food and drinks. It's a common interest that brings people together. Start at the bar or food station of the event. A simple "how's the salmon rolls"? Can open the door to a conversation.
Networking is a key to building lasting relationships, establishing referral sources and building your brand. What are some tips that helped you get more comfortable with networking?