Even in a world where online marketing is used more and more, face to face networking is still important. Not just to make contacts and connections but also for company and conversation, particularly if you work on your own. For some, however, networking is far outside of their comfort zone. Having to speak to strangers, standing up and introducing yourself in front of a room of people or having to “sell” yourself or your business? Oh the horrors!
At our Connexions meetings our Leaders work hard to make sure that everyone feels welcome and our informal style of meeting and introductions is designed to make you feel at ease. Here are our seven top tips for you to get the most out of network meetings:
Tip 1 – Arrive Early
Nobody wants to arrive at a meeting feeling a bit flustered or panicky because they have arrived late. Always give yourself plenty of time to get to the venue and find a parking space (if it’s the first time you have been to a venue or meeting then check out the parking situation beforehand). Most networking meetings start with open networking so arriving early also means you can be one of the first people to say hello and start a conversation. If you are a little shy it is so much easier to start a conversation than to arrive late and feel like you have to interrupt conversations that have already started.
Tip 2 – Remember Your Business Cards
An obvious one but make sure you have your business cards with you. Always keep spares in your car or bag just in case you need them. If you strike up a conversation with someone offer to swap business cards. Even if you can’t see yourself doing business with them personally they may know someone who could use your services or vice versa so you could form a referrer relationship.
Tip 3 – Smile!
Smiling and making eye contact can feel scary but it is one of the best ways to make connections. Smiling will not only make you feel more relaxed but it will also make you more approachable to others. Would you rather approach someone who is smiling at you and making eye contact or someone who looks unhappy and is looking at anything but the other people in the room?
Tip 4 – Circulate
You don’t have to speak to everyone but you should circulate. When you start a conversation with someone or you see someone you know it can feel more comfortable to just stay where you are particularly if you are feeling a bit nervous. Ideally you should move around when you can (the type of meeting may make this easier or more difficult) but at the very least involve other networkers in your conversation when you can.
Tip 5 – Be Yourself
When uncertain of a situation it can be very tempting to pretend to be someone you’re not because you feel embarrassed and shy. Good networking is all about making honest connections so you need to be yourself. People still do business with people and they are much more likely to do business with you if you are genuine and honest.
Tip 6 – Ask questions
Nerves can make you either not talk at all or only talk about yourself but to really figure out if someone is a potential customer or collaborator you need to ask lots of questions and be interested in them and their business. Never assume that someone is or isn’t your customer until you have found out more about them.
Tip 7 – Be Positive
If you go into a network meeting thinking that no-one will talk to you and that you won’t find any customers then that’s probably what you’ll end up with! Plan what you want to say about you or your business before hand (but don’t recite it verbatim as that sounds robotic) and set yourself small goals. If you are nervous or new to networking then you could aim to speak to 3 new people or aim to swap four business cards. When you are feeling a little more confident aim to get one follow up conversation or a follow up meeting.
If you want to join other women in business for conversation, connections and some great speakers then check out our groups and upcoming dates. We look forward to seeing you there.