Networking can be daunting, especially when you are really new to it.
My aim here is to give you the reader, a guide into the pitfalls of being a networking virgin.
I have been networking for about seven years and I can still remember my first business network meeting. It was at City College Brighton, (now Metro College) and the event was put on by the students from the catering and business departments.
It was quite scary and that was before I walked into the college. Would I know anyone there? Would people want to talk to me? Let alone want to hear what I had to say about the business I represented.
Was I dressed appropriately? Was my fly done up etc?
It would have been easier to take the cowards way out and go home again but I didn’t. I walked into the college and covered myself in the cloak of “blag it”. Yes I was nervous, but I walked in and just pretended that this was something I had done many, many times before.
So what happens next? How do I meet and get introduced to the people in the room? Do I barge into a group, introduce myself, and hand out a business card to each of them? I really had no idea, not a clue.
The cardinal sin of networking is forcing people notice you, it is rude, and not something you would do at a party, or other places where groups of people get together.
In time, when you, my reader are an old hand at this the networking game, you will meet the pushy networkers, that show their own inexperience.
Flying around the venue, muscling into groups, swapping business cards and promising to email you tomorrow, (which they will do). They are remembered only as the pushy ones trying to do the hard sell.
I waited, on the periphery and hoped that someone would come over and introduce me to the others.
A rather lovely lady (Tanya) did approach me, and said “Did you used to have a moustache?” (Bit of a line?).
Well, I did once have a moustache, but I didn’t recognize her at all, so the “Ice breaker” conversation was my long gone over-lip hair.
This is the best tactic, or so I feel.
When you enter the room with other networkers, have a look around, is there anyone you know?
If so, Your IN……Go up to them, say hi and start a conversation. They will introduce you to the other networkers, brilliant, now off you go.
Or you have surveyed the room and bum, you don’t know a soul there.
Here is what you do.
Look around the room again, slowly, slowly, take your time. If someone looks at you, make eye contact and smile. Nooo, not that great cheesy grimace, that would certainly put someone off.
Make eye contact, and a little genuine smile.
Walk over to them and start that conversation. Something like “Hi I’m Ned and this is my first networking event”. A bit cheesy I know, but it does work.
Oh, and don’t say your name is Ned, unless it is. It could cause embarrassment.
Today I have attended hundreds of networking events, and love it.
Meeting so many people, and making some great connections too.
If you live in the Brighton or Hove area, you could try this very friendly weekly networking club http://brightonnetworking.co.uk Oh yes and your first breakfast here is free, yes free.
Below is a small list of how to prepare for a business networking event.
The next blog will cover the pitch and how to make it really memorable.
- Turn up early. There is nothing more daunting than walking into a crowded room where you might not know anyone.
- Know what you are going to say, or at least have some idea.
- Have you pitch ready, you might be talking to a group of two or three people, or standing up at some point and talking to an entire room.
- Do not barge in, this will alienate you from the others immediately.
- Wait to be invited into a group of people, it will be worth the wait.
- Remember, if people like you, it doesn’t matter what you are selling, they will buy from YOU because they like you.
- Don’t think from the word go it will be a great success, again you will have to gain people and potential customers confidence.
- Keep going to networking events, as people get to know you, this will really help you gain their trust.
- Try as many events as you can, and see which ones you like. They may not all be for you.
- Dress to impress and you will be not left out for long.
Yes it can be terrifying, but you can do it, you really can.
James Wright (2018) ©