Networking is going out to business breakfasts and meetings and specific networking events to meet many people, swap business cards and help support each other with business leads.
I think networking is an extremely important business activity, but it needs to be done selectively. I am quite a social animal and have really enjoyed going out and networking and meeting interesting people. That in itself served a purpose. It kept my energy high for my business and I would come back with some new ideas. There are lots of networking clubs and groups. Your professional association may well have regional groups that meet.
However did it bring me any business?
No! Not until I was clear about who I needed to network with and collaborate with. (More about collaborations in a future step).
Listed below are guidelines for making the most of networking.
Network with Purpose
Before you sign up for a networking event, think about reason for attending. Decide your goals and what you hope to accomplish. You may not achieve them straight away but thinking this way really gets your prepared and you will improve with networking practice. Often what happens at networking events is that you develop stepping stones to where you want to be.
Goals may be:
Prepare your pitch
Often at networking events you will be invited to give a short presentation. Grab this opportunity with both hands. In later steps I will be talking about how important public speaking is to your success (and how many people who would rather die than speak in public have become great speakers!).
Practise in front of the mirror at home a one-minute presentation clearly stating with warmth and humour why you are the person to book for your particular speciality.
Practise scanning the room and making eye contact and smiling as you speak.
Make sure you arrive on time and are armed with plenty of business cards and promotional flyers. If you’ve booked an event be sure to attend-no dropping out because of nerves ort a better offer or feeling too tired!
Make sure if you promise something to someone that you do the follow-up within 48 hours of the event. Remember what goes around, comes around and your success is more likely if you are congruent.
Network and be yourself
People are more like to trust and warm to you if you are sincere and are being yourself. Be interested, listen and be genuine, honest, friendly and giving.
Network with a view to giving support and help
When you are networking your thoughts should be on “how can I help” rather than how can I sell my service. If you have this mindset, when you present a particular issue or problem people will want to help you too. So for example, I recently met a woman at an event who I know would really benefit from being in touch with 3 business people I know. I have called them to see if they would be interested in speaking with her and put them together. What I get from that is the satisfaction of helping and knowing that there are other like-minded people at networking events who will do the same for me.
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