by Renee Fellows
Networking can be a great way to gain new business leads and solid referrals. But what happens when the thought of walking into a mixer finds you hyperventilating in your car? Take a look at our Networking Survival Guide for tips and tricks to venturing into networking wilderness.
What should go into your Networking Survival Kit?
Professionally appropriate attire
Positive Attitude/and a SMILE!
Brochures or flyers for upcoming programs or events
Now that your ‘kit’ is packed, there are a few guidelines to maneuvering the networking event:
Step 1—Prepare Mentally.
Decide what your goals are for the networking event. Do you want to meet three new people and have a conversation with them about your new program? Consider what you’d like to accomplish by the end of the event and plan ways to achieve those goals before walking through the front door.
Are you prepared?
Have you cleared your head of the day’s events? Take a few minutes to center yourself and check your appearance. Write out a few conversation starters, a few follow up open ended questions and how you would like to end the conversation. Do you have your 60-second presentation ready?
What is a 60-second presentation? (Otherwise known as your Elevator Speech)
The scenario goes… You’re in an elevator riding to the 25th floor and there’s only one other person in the elevator. You decide to take this opportunity to try out your “Elevator Speech”—no more than 60 seconds of what you do and how you do it. Start with:
- Your name
- Your business or profession
- A brief description of your business or profession
- A memory hook that includes quick, ear-catching phrases
- A benefit statement of one particular product or service you offer—what you do that helps others
Grab your business cards, informational materials, name badge and any other tools for the event.
Now you’re ready to get in your car and drive to the event.
Step 2—The Buddy System.
Bringing a buddy to a business event is a wonderful idea. A buddy is one more person for everyone at the event to meet and it’s a perfect way to insulate yourself when you’re shy or new at networking.
Step 3—Put on your name badge / tag (or better yet, bring your own!)
As unattractive as some of these handwritten name tags are, they can often be a great conversation starter with new people.
Step 4—Scan the lay of the land.
When you first come into a networking event, scan the room and check for the location of the rest room, buffet table, podium (if any) and any individuals you might know or want to meet during the course of the evening.
Step 5—Bid your buddy farewell.
Once you and your buddy have hooked up with a business person or two, bid your buddy adieu and head off to start your own encounter. Remember, at these types of events, everyone is there to “network” so you’ll be among friends all seeking to accomplish the same task.
Step 6—Ask for an introduction.
If you’re speaking with a business colleague and wish to be inroduced to someone specific during the course of the night, ask them if they know Ms. X. If they say no, simply say that you were very interested in speaking with them that evening and if they say yes, follow up with something like: “That’s great! I was hoping to connect with Ms. X tonight to talk with her about our new program. Would you mind introducing me to her?” This tactic is a sure-fire way to get a solid introduction to the person you wanted to meet and also makes your current network contact feel important (that they knew someone you didn’t) and special. It’s a win–win for everyone and how the networking scenario works best.
Step 7—VOLUNTEER at the Event.
This is by far one of the greatest strategies to overcoming your fear of networking. Now you may think that this is like telling a Riding Hood that it’s ok to talk to strange wolves, however, what better way to make friends with the wolves than to be their guest ambassador? By assuming a role and position of strength within the networking group, you have in effect, taken charge of your fears and placed them in a neat and tidy box labeled ‘Winter Storage.’ You’ve given yourself permission to, (dare I say it?) speak to each person as they come through the door.
Step 8—Getting out of an overstayed conversation (please stop talking to me!)
This sometimes happens, after all people are people and some like to talk more than others. When the conversation is lacking or you have reached the point of critical mass and there doesn’t seem to be more to say you have a few options to escape with your sanity:
- Offer to introduce your contact to another person. “Have you met Tim the Toolman? He’s a great guy and someone you should meet, let me introduce you.”
- Ask to be excused. This is a perfectly legitimate way to leave any conversation. “Excuse me, but I see Susie Sarsaparilla and I need to talk with her before she leaves. It was great meeting you and I’ll talk with you again soon” is more than sufficient.
Remember that this is a two way street, so if someone uses this tactic on you, don’t be alarmed, they’re just ready to move on. Take heart and go back to Step 6.
Step 9—Wrap up your Networking Experience.
Take a few minutes following the event to jot down a few brief notes on the backs of the business cards you collected. Pertinent info rmation from the evening about the specific contact such as (‘wants me to send a brochure’, or ‘needs an accountant’). It’s very impressive to follow up on a question or concern that one of your new contacts mentioned the day before. Remember that your function at a networking event is to not only seek referrals but to GIVE THEM. The adage that it is better to give than to receive is a powerful one in networking.
You have just successfully completed your first networking survival course—how do you feel?
For additional advice on marketing and business communications, contact Renee Fellows at ClearPoint Marketing Communications by calling (603) 434-9433 or via email at Rfellows@oneclearpoint.com.
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