This is a guest post from Village Hive Member Wordsmith, Mirlo Liendo
So you’ve started your own business, or maybe this is an old gig but you’re looking to increase your network. Because increasing that network is the new print marketing, the new way to build your business efficiently and more importantly, personally.
Networking is a great option from a monetary standpoint. They are often inexpensive (or free) but it can be more expensive from a comfort standpoint.
Let me explain.
For extroverts, it’s a perfect way to show off your charisma, meet new people, and leverage your strengths socially in order to generate more business. We all know one of these people, the walk into a room full of strangers and know five (5) new people within the first 20 minutes. The warm, friendly, charismatic person who loves to buzz around the room smiling and talking to everyone.
Then there are the equally as skilled in business, but not in a room full of people they don’t know, kind of people. The people whose anxiety starts to build with the thought of having to introduce themselves, and ultimately their business to people they have never seen before. The ones who begin overthinking before they hit the purchase button on the eventbrite link for tickets, the one pleading with a friend to come as a wingman/wingwoman.
As someone who has attended hundreds of networking events over the years, I have developed a list to help you through the first few, something that will make your experience less painful, less about how you feel, and more about how to connect with others.
Ultimately, how to build your network, remain memorable and generate new leads for your business.
- Don’t overthink this with hypothetical situations or interactions, if you get too caught up in your thoughts, your pitch, or what you are wearing, you’ll defeat yourself before you even get there.
A pep talk if you need one is perfect. Remind yourself why you started your business, dig into the passion that keeps you grounded, and know that no one will be able to express this like you can. Just as you have met that one or two people you were excited to have met, those ones so passionate that you couldn’t help but leave knowing one day you’ll want to use their services or purchase their products; be that person to someone else.
- You can have a pitch, but please don’t use it. Think about it, when was the last time you were pitched a product and loved that someone pitched you? Can’t think of it? Good, it doesn’t exist. A pitch is a good thing to have in your head, it keeps a clear line in the sand on how to not over explain, but don’t ever use it.
Now that we have the pre-event over with, let’s move on to the actual deed.
Relax. You are not the only one there who is nervous. The calmer you are, the more approachable you will be. Energy doesn’t lie. If you are super nervous, other people will pick up on it and avoid you, which defeats the whole purpose here. There will always be the more intuitive people who will approach you because they can tell you’re nervous and they’ll want to help you warm up, but at that point you’ve made an important first impression faux pas for everyone else.
- Make eye contact and smile, which can only be done if you ARE NOT ON YOUR PHONE. Leave your phone in your pocket or purse until you are ready to add someone to your social media, or take down their phone number.
Yes, adding people to your social media is important, and what works even better is to open the page and allow them to enter their own information to avoid misspelling of names, or missing them altogether because their profile picture is a tree, or a sunset and they have a common name (which we will get into another time).
- Do NOT talk about yourself until you have taken the time to get to know the person. This should never be a desperate plea to sell your services. Networking is about meeting new people, like we did when we were kids in the playground. Ask someone if this is their first time to this particular event, ask them about what they do, and REMEMBER it.
Relate to them if you can, ask questions about things that they may be able to offer you information on. Then go from there, they will naturally ask you about you. Be honest, and warm, and friendly. You are making a first impression. And when and if you get a point where you talk about what you do, say it with sincerity and enthusiasm.
What do you have to offer? How can you solve a problem for them? And if you can’t, that’s OK!
At the very least you’ve connected with a new person.
Now it’s time to move on to the next person, with time being limited, you shouldn’t spend more than 5 minutes with one person. Less if they identify a need that someone else you have just met can solve that for them, yes, refer them to that someone else! Make an introduction.
You see, networking for your business should be painless. Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be tricky, but that’s where all the magic happens, and if you want to be a successful business owner, you’ll need this sort of magic.
People do business with people they are comfortable with, people who are confident, or at the very least, competent. There will be events and opportunities that don’t end up the way you would have liked, these too are learning experiences.
You’ll learn more about yourself, about demographics that work best in relation to your products or services, you’ll learn about how you can reach out to other business owners for support or direction, and how sometimes you can’t.
But most of all, you’ll be building that foundation of familiarity, ultimately you want to be as common as a household name. Your goal is to be remembered, so much so, that they are comfortable making a referral to you.
The end result – networking can be the opportunity to showcase what you offer while meeting a need, offering a solution or filling that void, for a customer.