Lately, I’ve specifically been looking for events where I can bump into other bloggers. Being behind a computer is one thing, but there’s nothing like face to face interaction. Networking events are the perfect place to meet people in your field as well as people that have the resources you may need access to. There’s only one problem…your comfort zone. Fear or anxiety over networking events don’t only happen to people that are shy or introverted; it absolutely can happen to anyone for a number of reasons! Whether you’re an introvert, an over-analyzer, a pro at networking, or even new to networking entirely, the thought of waltzing into a crowd of unfamiliar faces can make anyone squirm at one point or another. So! I’ve come up with a few easy systems that will help you navigate your way through networking!
1. Identify your kryptonite; make it a strength
2. Get on social media, follow the event organizers; engage!
3. Make a list of questions
4. Make a list of G O A L S
5. Make list of what you have to offer
It’s the day of the event, you’re dressed to impress, you’ve got your business cards ready to go, your questions are written down and your pen and note pad are tucked away in your cute clutch! Ready, set, go! Yes, by all means visit the bar. Whether you drink or not, wherever there are drinks, there are also people; so get a good spot and go for it! Don’t feel pressured to drink, if it’s not your thing it’s not your thing. However for people that even just drink socially, the bar is usually a neutral area. There’s probably someone over there that’s just as nervous as you, they’ve just been waiting to see a friendly smile. Remember to just relax. You don’t have to jump right into grilling them; you’re there to make actual connections whether they have something to offer you, vice versa or not at all. Listen then speak. Your goal is to treat each person you encounter as if they were already your friend. Networking is not about gaining valuable contacts but about creating real relationships that can eventually become valuable in building your business. You need to find value that you can bring to their business as well. Your job is to listen with purpose; not just to respond! Seriously take in what this person is sharing with you even if it initially has nothing to do with work because you need to be able to engage effectively.
Icebreakers. If there are icebreaker activities, or even a Q&A, your job is to participate! Instead of having to go around to each person individually, introduce yourself to the crowd and get it out of the way already so when you make your rounds, people are already familiar with what you do. Introducing yourself to the crowd will also help draw in the people in your niche, so there isn’t a lot of wasted time with people unfamiliar with what you do or need. Participating in event activities makes you visible.
Take notes. LITERALLY! You may need to takes some notes, there may be a speaker giving important information to questions you may not even know you have yet. Always be prepared!
Do not work the room. Don’t spread yourself too thin girlfriend! Working the room comes across as a bit too over zealous and as if you don’t know what you want. Be more specific and intentional with your interactions. You can’t make meaningful and lasting connections when you’re jumping from conversation to conversation. Consider each individuals network and think, “Is this in line with what I’m doing now or what I plan to do?”
Sharing is caring. It’s totally ok to ask for and exchange social media handles, take some event pictures together or pass out some business cards but what else does the conversation consist of? You’ve got to be transparent when you’re trying to form relationships and it doesn’t have to be weird. Share what you’re working on, share what your plans are for an upcoming project! Being transparent opens you up to someone meeting a need of yours and all you did was have a conversation! This also goes for sharing your own contacts and resources. You’re not the only person there in need of something. Give give give, then ask!
Be Yourself. We can easily get caught up in being what we think other people need. That happens in real life but especially at events like these. Just be genuine! You are building real relationships that could benefit your business or career, why wouldn’t you want to be your real self. If you don’t, then you could spend the rest of the relationship attempting to live up to what you think they want and who they think you are….way too stressful!
The Follow Up
This phase of networking is easily the most important phase of all. If you fail to follow up, then everything you’ve done was in vain. So what, you collected a lot of business cards! What are you going to do with them? Which of those, did you actually establish some form of relationship while you physically had their attention? What did they discuss with you about their business? Were you able to pinpoint a need within that person or their company? Were you even memorable to them? These are things you should consider when you’re sifting through the flood of business cards. The next thing you need to think about is how you will follow up with them. Will it be by email or phone call, then will you eventually meet up to have a one on one, will you do a video chat to have a more in depth conversation? The options are endless. Your goal throughout this entire process is to leverage the power of that single connection into many different opportunities, not only for yourself, but for the other individual as well!