Many people hate networking or get nervous before going to an event. You don't have to; here are some tips to get you through it with confidence.
1. Make a list of 5 potential groups to join; consider nonprofit organizations as well as business groups.
Research the organizations online to see what they do, who is involved, past events, etc.
Don’t forget that networking doesn’t just happen at business groups, it can be very effective to join boards of nonprofits, so check out their websites to see who else is already a board member that you may want to meet. This requires a greater commitment but is often well worth it.
2. Register for a meeting
If there is someone you know in the group, call and ask if they are attending.
Invite someone to go with you to ease any nervousness you may be feeling, but be sure to spread out once you arrive and sit with other people; you can then introduce each other to new people after the meeting that way.
3. Make a plan
What’s your goal for the meeting? To walk away with at least one business card that has value, i.e., referral source; potential client; Introduce yourself to someone you have been wanting to meet; Perfecting your introduction; Get tips from the speaker, etc.
Practice your 30 – 60 second introduction ahead of time so that if you are asked to stand up and introduce yourself you will have more confidence; Remember to think about the problem you solve for your clients rather than what you ‘sell’ – people want help, they don’t want to be sold something.
4. When you go
Show up 15 minutes early, introduce yourself to the registration team
You’ll also find a few others who show up early and they are often anxious to make connections as well
SMILE – it will immediately make you feel more confident and others are attracted to people who seem positive and approachable.
5. Wear your own name badge
Have one made for your company at a local printer or online so you always have it on hand and your company is prominently featured and your name is spelled correctly
6. Introduce yourself to others and then ask questions; listening first is a good practice
Ask what they do
Think of how you can help or connect them to someone else you know
Ask for their card before handing over yours; write on the back of the card where and when you met
Ask the team coordinating for specific people in attendance, e.g. for them to point out someone you want to meet and introduce you
Let people know what you might be looking for, i.e., how they can help you
7. After the meeting
Enter information from each card you collected into a spreadsheet or sales software tool (CRM) including the date you met, what organization hosted the meeting, who else they are connected to, etc.
Follow up within 2-3 days with an email to say it was nice to meet them and provide any information you promised
Consider the organization; Was it a good fit for you? How else can you get involved? Who is on committees or the board that you want to meet? Should you join or just attend another meeting to get a better sense of the members?
8. Remember that practice improves everything
Go to more meetings; go outside your comfort zone.
Reach out to people who seem new or lost; introduce them to others.
Be a connector!
I’ve been networking for over 30 years and there are still times when I get a little nervous attending something new by myself. When I do, I take a deep breath, smile and enter the room. I find that I always walk away with either a tip from the speaker or presentation that I can use or share with someone else or I meet someone that is a good source of business or that I can refer to someone else. It is always beneficial.