Networking, schmoozing, making connections. Call it what you want, it’s something that is a necessity if you want to do business today. Many of us either love it or hate it. Personally, I wasn’t too fond of it in the past. Although I’m an outgoing person, I just hated starting conversations with people I had no idea what to say to. Oh yes, my friends reading this will laugh out loud. “Yeah right – Simone? Shy? She can talk anyone under the table!” Ha ha, very funny, but that is beside the point.
Many folks, even extroverts, avoid networking for the simple fact that they don’t want to talk to strangers. Some feel that they don’t have anything to offer, or don’t feel like going to a pick-up joint disguised as a networking event. Yeah, you know the ones. I actually went to one last week and I was asking where the ‘networking’ was as I looked at the dance floor full of executives doing the electric slide (I kid you not! The electric slide!) I thought, “Darn! Foiled again!” Hey, we all love to have fun, but if it’s a party, just say it’s a party!
So, you see why I got fed up and started my own event, “Give ‘N Take Network”: http://www.giventakenetwork.org. There’s still hope for us all… we can make networking work if we really think about the benefits and plan for a successful outcome.
The things that can arise from networking are amazing. Most of my best contacts are people I met at business conferences and networking events. I actually make it a point to tell my clients to schedule in at least two networking events a month that target their audiences. Being seen and heard will increase your chances of success! Not only is networking good for business, but also for your personal life!
- Expand your customer base
- Get a new job or referrals
- Promote your business
- Meet new friends
- Build your self-confidence
- Have fun!
Four Easy Steps to Working a Room
1. Be Prepared
- Have a positive attitude
- Go with a purpose! What would you like to accomplish at this event?
- Bring plenty of business cards. Have a card-holder for easy access and also have a place to put cards of people that you meet.
- If you come with your buddies…make sure they know you aren’t joined at the hip. The worst thing you can be that night is a clique. When you get to the event, make it your goal to split up. That will encourage you to network even more. I know it’s hard, but you gotta cut the cord sometimes.
- If you really have a problem with clinging to others or you have friends that stick to you like glue. How about being the brave one and go alone? It will truly push you out of your comfort zone and once you do it one time, it’s much easier after that!
2. Introductions…Don’t be shy!
- Walk up to someone and introduce yourself. Make eye contact and give them a firm handshake. Okay, let me be clear: please, no Incredible Hulk grips! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my ring imprint make me want to cry from one of those shakes. What are you people trying to prove with those grips? However, you must by all means avoid the wimpy damp-palm handshake that just collapses within the other person’s hand. If you do that, you come across just like that -wimpy or even worse, like you’re royalty and you want them to kiss your hand.
- Say your first and last name while introducing yourself. Once they tell you their name, here are some tricks to remember it!
A. Listen for the name and repeat it, “Nice to meet you, Nadine.”
B. Use the name in your conversation.
C. Play name association games to remind yourself, such as Nadine from New Jersey or Navy Nadine (because she had on a navy blue suit.) This is my personal favorite since I have the memory of a 90-year-old sometimes!
- With a little dash of confidence and charm, share with your new acquaintance who you are. Make sure you smile and maintain eye contact with them. Plan your 30-second introduction beforehand. Your intro is just your tagline. Basically, it’s a couple of sentences of who you are, what you do to get them interested, and start the conversation. Make sure you ask them about themselves as well.
- Small Talk: A little small talk makes folks feel comfortable and at ease. Try not to brag, or impress, but just act natural. You will already have something in common since you are at the same event, so why not start by talking about that? Common interests can be excellent conversation starters. Understanding your similarities takes the edge off.
i.e.: “So, you’re an entrepreneur too? How long have you been in business for yourself?” or something like, “Nice to meet you too, Nadine! First time at a National Squirrel Lovers Convention?” (just making sure you are awake…I crack myself up, excuse me.)
As suggested by Networking Guru, Susan Roane, try using the OAR TACTIC.
It’s a great way to break the ice and begin an engaging conversation. Remember…being a good listener is key!
3. Seal the Deal
- So, you’ve had your small talk, found out how you can help each other and have exchanged cards. Make sure you LOOK at the card when they hand it to you. Don’t just shove it in your pocket. That’s just rude! Looking at the card will help you remember their name as well. After you walk away, you can write on the back of their card what you are going to do for each other, or some tips to remind you who they are, i.e.: Guy in the black hat who was friends with Bill. Has a client that needs my service.
4. Follow up
- You might want to end the conversation like, “I’ll send you an email tomorrow regarding blah blah blah.” Or “I’ll call you on Tuesday so we can finish our conversation about …”. Following up is not only the best part, but the MOST important part of networking.
Like I always say: “Talk is Cheap!” If you don’t follow up, you just wasted precious time shooting the breeze.
Hope these tips will help you work that room at your next event.
Once you get your networking skills down, you’ll be able to BARTER!
Feeling the pressure of the recession? Use your networking skills to get your independent business up and running!