Walking up to a random stranger in a crowded room or (gulp!) a group of strangers and striking up a conversation can feel like complete torture to some, but it doesn’t have to be a scary experience! Networking can actually be a very fun and effective part of marketing your business so before you start shaking your head and backing away from the screen, we have a few great tips for you to get over your fear of networking, which will help to grow your business face-to-face so you can become the go-to (insert your company name here) consultant in your town and perhaps even your state!
There are a LOT of networking events out there which can feel a bit overwhelming from the get-go, but the good news is that you don’t have to (and shouldn’t!) go to every single one! You need to be strategic and do your research so that you can attend the ones that will be most beneficial when it comes to growing your business. With resources like Google, MeetUp, EventBrite and Facebook, you can easily filter out the events in your area that aren’t a good match and focus on the ones that will be fantastic for you!
Become a Friendly “Stalker”.
Of course we don’t mean to actually stalk someone, because that would end badly, but what we DO mean is that once you have chosen a networking event, you should definitely check out who else is attending. If the event has an actual Facebook Event then join that and read up on all the posts and look to see who else will be there with you. Depending on what the posts in the Event are, you can break the ice a bit by commenting on a couple and perhaps even posting your own question or introduction and that you’re looking forward to meeting everyone there! Make sure your profile picture is of your friendly face, not your kids or products, because you will want everyone to “see” you on Facebook and remember what you look like and vice versa when you are meeting in person. It’s always a good idea to narrow down who you should network with beforehand, because then you have a plan in place and it’s simply impossible to talk to every single person. Know before you go!
Be an Early Bird to Get those Words.
We know the saying “fashionably late” sounds alluring and all, but it will only make you more anxious if you throw yourself into a jam-packed room of strangers who are already deeply engaged in their own conversations. Instead, it’s a great idea to arrive early and get yourself acquainted with your surroundings. You’ll find that people who show up after you will be more inclined to approach you since you’re already there, greeting them with a smile as they walk in. After the initial hellos are exchanged, instead of diving into an elevator pitch, ask them a question to get to know them better, i.e., “How long have you been in this area?” or “I’d love to hear what you’re passionate about!” and you’ll naturally begin a casual conversation where they are excited to speak to you and ask you questions in return. Keep in mind that if you bring along your bestie for moral support, it could backfire as you two could latch onto one another and not mingle as much as you would when attending solo. If you do have a “date” for the evening, split up for a bit to network and arrange to meet back up after a certain amount of time apart to compare notes, then, repeat!
Give Yourself a Time Out.
If you should feel yourself becoming anxious then simply excuse yourself if you’re in a conversation and head out to get some fresh air or powder your nose. There is nothing wrong with needing a few minutes alone to gather your composure and take in a few relaxing breaths. Grab a coffee, take a quick walk, or call a friend for a little pep talk and then get back in there with your head held high, a huge smile on your face and continue to mingle!
Don’t Be Long Winded.
Networking events can be taxing on the mind and body as you are “on” for a couple hours or more at a time. Save yourself from getting hoarse by adhering to the “Less is More” motto. Keep your conversations pleasant but don’t corner anyone in the room or go on and on about your kid’s school play performance. Stick to the basics of the introduction, the interests (this is where you ask them questions to get to know them), the connection (this is the part where you talk about your businesses) and the closing, which means that you finally take out your phone and look them up on Facebook or LinkedIn to “keep in touch” and follow up. Because yes, you are really going to follow up!
BONUS: The biggest networking tip of all is to simply show up! We know that right now you’d rather get a root canal than attend a networking event, but once you get there and stay longer than five minutes, you’ll soon discover that each time it gets easier, and then suddenly you realize that you’re actually having fun. You’ll find that you’re creating those connections that will build your business which is the exact reason you’re putting yourself out there! We can’t wait to hear about your experiences so be sure to keep in touch and tell us how you’re doing!