However, networking can be an excellent way to grow your business and make valuable contacts. It might never be your favourite thing, but it is well worth giving a go. Lots of people do grow to enjoy it!
It really needn’t be as painful as you may fear, as long as you approach it with the right attitude and keep a few simple tips in mind.
Getting a bit of research in before the day itself should make you feel a little more relaxed about things. As an event approaches, find out who else will be attending and decide who you want to speak to. Event organisers should provide an attendee list or, if you’re on Twitter, see if anyone mentions the event and make yourself known to them beforehand. Also, use the event’s website (if they have one) and LinkedIn to swot up on who you’ll be meeting .
Finally, make sure you’ve got your 30-second ‘elevator pitch’ ready so that you can describe yourself and your business quickly and clearly when required, rather than panicking and talking gobbledygook.
On the day
Try to engage with the people you’d planned to speak to but don’t force your way into a conversation. If they’re in an obviously closed group, you could seem rude trying to muscle your way in, so wait for a natural opportunity and look instead for open groups that will be easier to join.
When you do get to speak to the people you want to, use what you’ve prepared. Don’t be too salesy, though – try instead to focus on something you know they’re interested in. For example, you might have just heard them make a speech, so you could ask a question about it.
Then it’s your chance to listen. People often feel most comfortable talking about themselves, so encourage it by asking questions. The result will be that you’ll have charmed them without them even knowing it.
If the conversation peters out, be ready to give your opinions too. Don’t try to butt in; just be patient and wait for the right moment, as a conversation between strangers usually falters at some point.
Finally, don’t be afraid to politely make your exit if the conversation really is going nowhere. You’ve made contact; now don’t spoil it by being dull.
Seal the deal
After the event, you should follow up the initial contact with either a phone call or an email. It shows you valued the meeting, however brief it was. Also, use Linked-In and Twitter, if appropriate, to solidify the connection.
If networking still fills you with dread…
There are now huge opportunities to network online rather than face to face. Twitter and LinkedIn in particular are now established networking tools for business users.If that sounds up your street, have a look at our ‘Beginner’s guide to Twitter’ to see how it can benefit your business.
Now, take a deep breath and go and make those contacts!
Do you have any networking tips of your own you can share for people who aren’t that confident about it? Alternatively, tell us what terrifies you most about networking?
[Image: renjith krishnan]