From shy to savvy networker!
Business networking can be like going to a party.
If you meet me today at a business networking event you will probably not notice that I am not at all a natural business networker.
Before we dive deeper into the topic I have to stress that non-business networking or what I call a ‘safe’ environment e.g. networking in a workplace, at school or at a party is a ‘no-brainer’ for me.
I can, without problems, small talk, be the (..almost..) perfect guest and in a workplace I have no problems networking and interact with colleagues no matter what level in the organization. I am also definitely much more extrovert than introvert.
BUT going to a business networking event, knowing nobody, with the purpose of building business relationships have, in the past, been completely unnatural for me and something I had to learn.
Starting my business in New York, knowing nobody, I had only one choice – to learn to business network! And since I know that when things are uncomfortable I will not continue doing it, I also knew I had to learn to like to business network.
I needed help! Help from someone that I knew loved business networking!
I asked my husband Percy. Percy not only likes to network, business or social. Networking makes him happy and energized!
At first he did not understand the difference from going to a party and going to a business network event. Both had equal ‘fun-value’ for him. When I explained him the difference he just said – do the same, just change your ‘pitch’!
It was one of those ‘light-bulbs’ or ‘aha’ moments for me. Of course – business networking is like a party, most of them even serve wine.
The ‘party analogy’ was a great help for me. I did question him more, read a lot of articles about networking and started to get my ‘feet wet’ business networking.
Below I have organized his advice, my own experiences and tips from research that have been the most beneficial for me:
1. The right mindset
Forget about the business part. Just do as you do everywhere else: make it fun and interesting meeting new people. Make the business networking about learning and not so much about getting something specific out of the evening. Take the stress out by pretending you are at an event where you normally feel relaxed.
2. Be approachable
Being uncomfortable doing something can make one very conscious about ones appearance. Do not obsess about fashion, just dress like you would when going to work. And SMILE! You look unapproachable if you do not look smiley and friendly. Offer to help someone order in the bar. Give a compliment, but only if you are sincere about the compliment – faking it will show!
3. Prepare how you will describe what you do and who you are
Always have your ‘elevator’ speech ready. But DO NOT make it mechanical or too long! Make it interesting and to the point, work on it before hand and practice your speech.
4. Be active
Go to all the events that are relevant. Some events might be more successful than others, but you never know whom you will meet where. Don’t de discouraged if you have a bad experience, keep on trying.
5. People like to help
Networking is a skill that can be learned. The more you practice the more you realize that people are positive towards you and this will encourage you to continue. People really like to help – believing this makes it much easier.
Re-connect after the event on LinkedIn or other social media. Write an e-mail or suggest to meet for a coffee.
Offer your help to connect those you know with other relevant people you know. It gives so much satisfaction helping others.
8. Network for life
Do not wait to build up your network till you need it e.g. out of a job. Build it throughout your life.
9. Reward yourself
I read this wonderful article about a guy who had given himself the reward at networking events that when he had given out 5 business cards and received 5 business cards he was allowed to go home. In the beginning of my New York business networking adventure, when I was not up to par, I used that trick. It almost always had the great effect that I suddenly forgot time and stayed till the end!
I did learn to business network and I also do like it now. Actually I have come to really like it!
I have met the most wonderful people at business networking events, some are LinkedIn friends, some are business connections and some have become dear friends!
You can also become a savvy business networker. Team up with someone or hire a coach. If I can do it you can!