If like me the thought of networking is enough to send you into a cold sweat then fear no more, there is hope and some simple things you can do to face the fear.
It has taken me several years to see networking for what it is, and it was when I heard Sarah Turvill of Willis International speak at an event in London that the penny dropped for me. Sarah admitted she was not a great fan of networking but that it was the name that conjures much more horror that the reality which is that networking is just talking to people, yes just talking to people.
"Networking is just talking to people, yes just talking to people."
If you can hold that thought and apply the following five tips then you can learn to enjoy an event you attend and comfortably and confidently meet new people.
1. Connect on social media.
If you can find out who will be there in attendance and speaking and connect with them on social media, either Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook, and have a look at their content and activity. This can help you pick out any key people you would like to talk to and may inspire some questions for you to ask them. If people, see you have done some research they will be happy to talk to you.
2. Arrive early so you are calm, relaxed, and not flustered.
It is far less intimidating to arrive before the start of the conversations and meet people as they arrive.
3. Be active on social media.
By updating your social media profile, you can find other people at the event, impress the event organisers and connect with people who aren't even attending. You can plan a mixture of pre-planned posts and organic posts but keep it short and don't spend the whole time glued to your screen.
4. Ask Questions.
Have some pre-planned general questions you can ask people you meet, some examples I use are;
· How far have your traveled to get here?
· What brings you to this event?
· What are you finding most useful about today?
It is much better to start a conversation by asking something more general and then if you want to talk business you can, but I wouldn't suggest you start with your elevator pitch! It is just not natural, and I know networking events are based on sales, but I think it feels much more natural to strike up a conversation without focussing on sales.
5. Follow Up.
If you collect business cards, write on the back any extra information that will help you remember the details, so you can add a personal touch to any follow-up messages. If you have agreed to follow up with someone then make sure you do it quickly after the event and tagging the people, you met in posts about the event can be a nice way to follow up and continue the conversation.
So, don't worry about selling or delivering a perfect elevator pitch but focus on quality over quantity and look for events in your area that you think would be a good fit for you.
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