For many people, the term ‘networking’ makes them break out in a cold sweat. I totally get it – being in a room filled with strangers (who potentially have very successful businesses) can be extremely intimidating.
But it doesn’t have to be a scary experience. As someone who has attended networking events for a few years now, I’ve sussed out how to make them work for you.
Here are some ways you can become a better networker
1. Don’t assume everyone knows everyone
Just because you walk into an event and see multiple groups of people chattering away, doesn’t mean most (if not all) of those people arrived solo. It’s totally okay to approach groups and tune into the conversation at the sidelines until someone introduces themselves or asks about your business. It’s not rude at all – it’s actually expected at networking events! How else are you meant to meet new people?
If you attend a particular networking group’s events on a regular basis, you’ll start to see more and more familiar faces from previous interactions. One day, you’ll become that person who appears to know everyone – and will know exactly how to welcome a newcomer to make them feel comfortable.
2. Come prepared with icebreaker questions
After working up the courage to approach a group, be ready to ask them questions. Focusing on other people can help calm your nerves as it takes the attention away from you.
You could ask things such as:
- “What’s your business?”
- “What are you passionate about?”
- “What are the next steps in your business?”
- “How do you manage a work/life balance?”
- “What problems are you currently facing in your business?”
- “What are your plans for the weekend?”
They will most likely ask you questions in return, but by that point you’ll be in a relaxed flow of conversation.
3. Be yourself and do NOT try to sell
As Oscar Wilde once said – “Be yourself because everyone else is taken.” Networking usually works best when people can see the genuine and authentic person behind the business. It’s not the space for seeing who can be the best salesperson. A networking event shouldn’t be deemed unsuccessful if you walk away without sale promises.
A quick Google search defines networking as an opportunity to ‘interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.’ The key words here are ‘exchange information’ and ‘contacts’.
So please, puh-lease, don’t walk into a networking event ready to pitch to anyone and everyone who introduces themselves to you. It’s simply not ‘the done thing’ these days and you’ll potentially leave behind a very off-putting first impression.
There will be plenty of opportunities to talk about your products and services. But interaction and building trust with the other person must come first.
4. Know how to ‘escape’ politely
If you’ve ever been stuck talking to someone who’s not on the same wavelength (or you’ve been talking with them for a long time), you’d know how awkward it is to get away without seeming rude.
Here are some actions you can try:
- Say “It’s been great chatting with you, but I better go do the rounds/catch up with (insert name) over there. But I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening!”
- Excuse yourself to head to the bathroom/get some food or drink.
- Introduce the person to someone else.
- Ask for their business card and say “Thanks for that. I’ll be in touch if I ever need (insert product/service).”
5. Aim to be a connector
When talking with other business owners, aim to be a connector. Put on your problem-solving hat and see how your connections (built up from previous networking events or on a personal level) could help them.
I love being a connector and helping others. Making connections doesn’t just help the person with the problem and provide a warm sales lead to the person with the solution. By showing you care, you can build up your trust levels. So if someone requires your products or services in the future, who do you think will spring to mind? It really is a win-win-win situation.
I hope these tips make you feel a bit more comfortable at your next networking event.
If you live in Sydney, I’d love to see you at my new Meet-Up group ‘Hills District Business Empowerment Network’. It’s free to attend and I promise to make you feel as comfortable as possible!
If you have any questions about networking or my copywriting services, feel free to contact me.