I’ve attended business mixers on and off over the years but never quite with defined intention, direction or purpose. After making the decision to join a business chamber, I started searching and reading about what it is supposed to mean to be part of a business chamber including attending a few networking workshops. I’ve picked up basic tips that covered questions such as, How to network effectively? What should women know about networking? What organizations should I join? What I derived from my jump-start of a networking journey is that networking is absolutely necessary if you want to grow your business. If your business is not growing, then it’s just a hobby.
I’ve summed up 8 networking tips that I’ve picked on my networking journey.
1. Have a goal. How many people do you want to meet at your next networking event? Who do you want to meet? Why do you want to meet this person? What do you wish to contribute? If you go with the mindset of having at least one goal when you go networking, it will make a world of difference on how you approach people and how you feel about yourself. You will have a sense of purpose and determination that will emanate to others and perhaps even draw others who also came in with a goal to want to meet you. When you don’t have a goal, you may end up wandering aimlessly, heading over to the buffet table, or looking down at your smart phone to check your latest news feed. Yep, I’ve been there. Yep, so have you.
2. Take the initiative. With goal in mind go out there and smile, extend your hand out and meet people. Plain and simple. It works.
3. Meet many people. They say men have wide and shallow networks and women have narrow and deep networks. If you’re a woman, I say have both types of networks. Don’t be cliquey. Make it a goal to meet as many new people at the event as you can. Acknowledge your new friends and acquaintances but don’t stand there and chat for the next hour. You’re there to network and grow. Why not connect your new friends with your new “just mets”. Be the connector.
4. Wear a name badge and carry business cards. You’re there to see and be seen. Wear your name badge where people can easily see your name. It makes it much easier for those you meet to remember your name especially when you are meeting many people in a short time. And please carry business cards. Are you there to socialize or network and grow your business?
5. Don’t expect new business at your first networking mixer. In fact, don’t expect any business at all for the first 6 months to 1 year. One successful caterer in Silicon Valley whose business grew exponentially from growing his network said most of his business didn’t come immediately or even directly from his network. But because he made himself a resource and offered value (e.g. catering lunch for free at events), eventually his business grew because people began to recognize him, began to know him, began to like him and eventually referred him new business, new connections and new opportunities. Going to a couple mixers just won’t do. Network often.
6. Don’t sell to your network. What? Don’t Sell? That’s right. You’re not a vendor at a trade show. You are not going with the purpose of buying someones’ product or service. And neither is anyone else. You go to a networking event to make new connections, learn from others, network and grow! You are going there for the opportunity to meet interesting people in your community. It is the opportunity to grow your connections and be a resource to others. At your next networking event try this: acknowledge your new friends and connections; go meet new ones; connect others; be a resource and grow and cultivate your new relationships.
7. Relax and have fun. Don’t stress. Relax those shoulders. Networking is not about how many relationships you can start in one day. Rather, networking opens the door to the opportunity to meet people who you may find interesting. Think networking as discovering and learning about other people. Ask questions. That should take some of the stress off. If you meet a person that is interesting to you, then do collect his or her card and be sure follow up.
8. Don’t take it personal. Networking can be intimidating. Be patient. Be persistent. It takes time to grow your network. The fear of being rejected is normal. When that fear starts to creep up, I remember these 3 phrases: SW, SW, SW. Some will. Some won’t. Some whatever.