So, you have never been to a networking meeting and the thought of attending one simply scares the life out of you. It does not have to be awkward; the entire process is simple.
Networking is not all take, take, take, it is all about giving, connecting with people, building relationships and most of all… Trust!
Always be mindful that when you walk through the doors of your first meeting, networking is an investment and there is no guaranteed ROI. However, you can increase your odds of landing a new prospect by offering something valuable upfront. Focusing on what you can get is always the number one problem and with the mentality of giving, you can fix this!
Write a good elevator pitch days before your meeting, throwing something together the night before is never a good idea. Practice your pitch until you are sick of hearing your own words, letting the words flow will not only look professional, it will help you sound less like a robot and will also help with the nerves… The last thing you want to do is to become tongue tied and end up talking gibberish or even worse… spitting your gnashers out across the table!
Have a pile of business cards ready to take with you, people DO judge a book by its cover, handing out scraps of paper with your name and number on will not do you any justice.
Make sure you do your research
!Why? Preparation is the key. Brush up on your notes, anticipate questions and ensure you can pronounce everyone’s name correctly. Look at what other members do within the group, research their business.
Be professional, polite, and considerate… Treat people like they are a potential client, show that you care about their business, just as you do yours. Take the time to listen to others and help by sharing your expertise without going in for the hard sell, building rapport is the key.
10% of networking is showing up to a meeting, 90% is building relationships with other people.
To benefit from networking, you do have to reach out and build a relationship. Don’t wait more than a week to follow up with a new contact, timing is vital. Email is usually the best format to follow up. Make use of the stack of business cards that you collected during your meeting, make a good impression. As businesspeople, we all have a lot going on, it is often quite easy to forget a conversation, following up within a week will ensure that the conversation is still fresh for the recipient.
Mention something specific that was discussed, especially if this was of mutual interest. Suggest a way to keep the conversation going, maybe offer to meet up for a coffee and have a one to one, to get to know each other’s business and learn about who they are and why they are (building relationships). Do it wisely and you will develop long lasting working relationships.
Not all events for networking are a flaming success, but not all groups are a waste of time either. Professional networking is all about nurturing relationships over time, it is not about today; it’s about tomorrow and the day after, a year from now and five years down the line. It is a long game, not every contact you make will pay off instantly or even at all.
Networking, whatever your previous experience, it is important to remember that people still do business with people, this is unlikely to ever change.
Maybe we will meet at an event soon.