This is partly a blog about networking and partly about presenting as I feel the same way about both. I recently had a birthday party for a “big” birthday. It came to the time when one might be expected to make a speech. I have to admit it, I looked at all those lovely smiling faces, froze, and quickly muttered, “Thank you for coming, eat the cake, please dance!”. All these people are friends and family that we know and love. There was absolutely no need to feel overwhelmed but overwhelmed I was!
I often have the same fight or flight approach when it comes to networking. I enjoyed listing to Helen and Sarah talking about it on their Amazing If Squiggly Careers podcast. As Sarah says, despite being aware of our personality types, we shouldn’t use it as an excuse to not attend networking events. It can be helpful however to be aware of the feeling and find effective strategies to cope.
Following a recent networking training session with Silvia Baldock, these are the tips that I picked up. I will continue to try and implement at least in a professional scenario – maybe I will have it perfected for the 50th!
Networking: prepare in advance
When you know which event or networking group you want to attend, think ahead of who might be there and what you can offer to add value to the group. Practice a quick summary of who you are and what you do. Ideally practice it in front of someone. If you feel too shy then film yourself on the phone so that you can get used to talking confidently and omit some of the “ums” “ers” and “likes”.
It can help to have an objective in mind such as talking to at least one new person or offering one piece of useful advice. Networking is rarely about the hard sell, its more about getting to know new people and businesses and sharing knowledge and expertise. The long-term benefit could be potentially picking up potential new clients at a later stage.
Always be ready to network, it’s not just at formal events
Have a little spiel ready at all times, you might be surprised where the next opportunity springs up. I was recently at the barbour’s with my son. I was asked what I was working on at the moment. It turned out that his wife was about to change jobs and may have some potential marketing work to handover. I was able to leave a business card and talk a little bit about the types of clients I work with.
Emma Cossey, a Freelance Coach from the Freelance Lifestyle community also talks a lot about talking to friends and family about what you do, so you could consider that to be informal networking and practice your networking summary on them.
Be Selective and build genuine connections
If you can find a networking group that fits in with your natural ethos and spirit that is where you will have the most success. It may be that you find it more beneficial to join a group like the Girl Tribe Gang where you start to see some familiar faces each time. It then gives you the opportunity to build a support network of other businesses that are cheering you along and there to lend an ear if you have a question or need some extra support.
Alternatively, you may like to find a group such as a business book club. This way you can talk about another topic related to business rather than formal networking. A perfect opportunity to build a genuine connection with other attendees.
On the occasions that you do go to a “traditional” networking session, be yourself! Actively listen to what others are saying rather than concentrating on what your own message will be. If you can, follow-up afterwards and continue to support and interact with these people either on social media or through attending future events.
I’d love to know any top tips for networking that you may have discovered? Please feel free to get in touch via social media and I will be sure to try them out in the future!