Business networking, doesn’t come naturally to people, and do you know what, that’s ok. Yes I’ve said it, its ok if it doesn’t come naturally to you.
Looking back over the years, my experience of networking has varied from locking myself in the toilets through to running out of a networking event sweating buckets.
Networking is incredibly rewarding, you’re not there to sell, you’re there to network, to build relationships, form alliances and generally enjoy a horrendously gorgeous cooked breakfast or fruit, if that’s your thing.
I can already hear you screaming at the computer saying, that’s easy for you to say, you’ve been doing it for ages.
So, to help get you over those new networking hurdles I’ve compiled 9 networking tips to help you, and believe me this isn’t written from a networking veteran.
1. Just say hi
When you use to go to primary school how did you start the morning? You’d start it by saying Good Morning wouldn’t you?
So this is exactly how you start off conversations at networking. A simple hi, good morning can spark off a conversation.
Like most things, its a game, get the person you’re talking to talk about their business, and use your knowledge and experience to help solve any queries or problems they may have.
Remember you’re not there to sell, you’re there to build a relationship, and the first step of that path is a simple and cheery good morning.
2. Be You
Sure some networking groups will have a dress code, shirts, ties, suits, some are a little more relaxed.
Check before you agree to attend the networking event what the setup and format is.
Dress for the role you do, dress for the industry you are in but importantly dress in the way that expresses who you are and your own unique values.
If you’re in a room full of suits, how better than to stand out in a hoodie and a pair of flip flops, you would certainly get attention.
3. Prepare the night before
This sounds so simple, but believe me its surprising the people that don’t prepare the night before.
Ensure your clothes, shoes, business cards are ready the night before. Make sure you know where you’re going, and that you have change for any parking charges.
Build in some “let shit happen” time, perfect for traffic jams or the cat getting stuck up the tree, if its going to happen, it’ll happen when you don’t want it too.
Giving yourself plenty of time to get ready, get to the venue and time to breath.
4. Choose Water over Coffee
One of the worse drinks you can go for is coffee, it heightens your sense, and increases your anxiety levels.
If you’re already nervous, the last thing you’re going to need is a double espresso whilst chatting to a local accountant.
So, grab yourself a glass of water, and work that room safe in the knowledge you’re not going to run out the door.
5. You look and are amazing
No we’re not being modest, you do, you look amazing, so take confidence in that.
Remind yourself why you started, what you’re going to the networking event for and more important remind yourself that you are amazing at what you do.
There will be people at the networking event who will be in the same boat as you, so button up that shirt, pop your most comfortable shoes on and go knock em dead.
6. Arrive on Time
Who likes walking into a crowded room?
Of course no one does, so don’t arrive late. I hate to think how many networking sessions I’ve attended where everyone is sat eating and then you walk in late.
Believe me, those heads look up quicker than a jack in the box, and yes you do feel concious.
So my biggest advice to you, arrive on time, in fact try and aim to be there 10 minutes early show the organisers and yourself that you mean business!!
7. Same as you
Don’t forget there will be people there who are in the same boat as you, a networking virgin.
Half of the people that attend these networking sessions started out exactly where you are right now, take comfort in that.
8. Combating the anxiety
Anxiety is an absolute pig!!
But, and this is coming from someone with a diagnosis of General Anxiety Disorder, a lot of it is in your head, literally.
Focus outward throughout the networking session, its exhausting, its unusual, but if you don’t do it how are you going to network and build those all important relationships.
Start off small, and give yourself little rewards, aim for 5 minutes, then 10 and so on. Don’t monitor your anxiety levels to much, notice them, but each time that little anxious thought pops up and say to yourself ah there’s that thought again.
Once you’ve done that, its time to move onto the next gentleman or lady to speak to.
Work that room and networking anxiety will be a thing of the past
9. What’s the worse that can happen?
Seriously what’s the worse that can happen?
Yes, that’s right, nobody will speak to you, which, and this is me being honest, I’ve attended many a networking session and I am yet to find one where I’ve not been spoke to.
Nothing bad will happen from attending a networking event, if anything you’re likely to make new business contacts, long term friends and grow your business as a result.
Networking is fun, its exciting, sure a little daunting for newbies, myself included, but it can be one of the most affordable ways you can grow your business.
So grab those business cards, and find your nearest networking session in Torbay.