How to get better at Networking
15 years ago, I walked into my first ever networking event ever. I’d attended a ‘grow your business’ event, and at the end of it, a local photographer approached me.
He praised my business thoroughly. Afterwards, he invited me to a breakfast meeting to meet other business owners.
He was certain that I’d like it. So, I took his word for it. Trying doesn’t hurt…
Admittedly, I was overwhelmed by the event.
It felt like I was at a party where everyone knew everyone, except me.
And while everyone was so friendly, I didn’t feel confident. I prayed silently that I wouldn’t be called upon to say anything, which, of course, was wishful thinking.
At the end of the meeting, the chairperson publicly asked me to join the group. I felt pressured, and I never went back.
And worst of all, I didn’t make a single connection. The experience left me feeling like networking just wasn’t for me.
It wasn’t until later that I realised that it’s completely normal to feel that way.
It’s normal to feel scared when you enter a room where everyone knows the other. What is not normal is allowing that feeling to control you.
And after attending hundreds of workshops, it’s safe to say that I’ve picked up a few lessons along the way. Today, networking to me feels natural. It’s a breeze in the park.
It’s my dream that everyone starts to see the benefits of networking, and just how much it can do for your business.
Remember, your network is your net worth.
Earlier this year, I wrote a guide on how to network like a pro. This post is a summary of the pointers in the guide.
Here are 5 tips to get better at networking:
1. Prepare adequately
“Networking is just not for me. I’ve never gotten any business from networking.”
I’ve heard this countless times, and it all boils down to one thing. Poor preparation.
The chances of getting business from your first networking event are unlikely. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And you need to play the long game.
Take time to get to know the host. He/She can give you a glimpse of what the networking group is all about. They can give you pointers. They can introduce you to people.
As part of preparing, you’ll also need some clarity on what exactly you do. You can’t expect people to give you business if you don’t directly tell them what you do.
What solution do you provide? How do you help people? What’s your competitive advantage? Practise a clear statement that you’ll use when the time comes.
And lastly, set at least one goal. Make it achievable. It could be to make at least three conversations, or even to follow up with one person.
If you are well prepared, things are much more likely to work for you.
2. Follow up
“The secret to networking is in 1-2-1s”
I’ve said this statement a thousand times. And I stand by it.
You won’t gain much by just going to a networking event, and leaving things as they are.
Stay in touch. Make good use of social media. Connect with the people and engage with them.
Whatever you do, make sure to follow up at most 48 hours after the event.
You never know how you could benefit from the person next to you unless you get in touch with them.
3. Help your network
There’s a fundamental rule of business that’s also relevant to networking. “To win at the game of business, people must first know you, then like you, before they finally trust you.”
How do you get from one point to the next? It’s simple…
Other than following up, if you want to gain more from networking, you have to understand givers’ gain!
It’s a great concept, I think.
The best networkers are the ones who look to help rather than receive.
I can guarantee that if you help someone, they’ll definitely think of you next time.
Even when you can’t see the immediate benefits to you, always seek to help other people. When you do, you’ll eventually start to reap the benefits for yourself.
4. Have meaningful conversations
If you want to get people to know you, you need to have meaningful conversations with them.
You can do this by having some conversation starters. Listen actively to what’s being said and ask good questions.
They say that asking questions is a really effective way to better communicate and connect with others.
To get a better perspective of the people at the event, you can research the regulars beforehand.
What do they do? What’s their business all about? And what kind of person are they?
People like to talk about themselves. If you get a headstart on what they do, you have a headstart on making connections.
5. Stay calm
Have you ever met someone who is annoyingly confident? They walk into a room and speak their mind. They’re not afraid to say what’s on their mind. And they wear their hearts on their sleeves.
It may look that way on the outside, but I can bet you that there’s more to it. Somewhere deep within, everyone’s a little intimidated by crowds. Everyone is shy in their own way.
Human beings are more similar than different.
If you’re experiencing some social anxiety, it’s likely that you’re not alone.
We are all naked underneath.
First impressions matter. In fact it’s been said that people make first impressions within seven seconds.
And remember, first impressions are lasting impressions. So even though you feel intimidated by the people in the room, be brave.
Because chances are high that everyone else is in the same boat as you. Some people are just better at hiding it.
So take deep breaths and put on your big pants. Whatever you can do to stay calm, do it.
Networking is possibly one of the cheapest forms of marketing.
It’s also one of the most effective forms, because it relies on word-of-mouth, another powerful strategy.
If you want to get better at networking, the 5 tips are:
- Prepare adequately
- Follow up
- Help your network
- Have meaningful conversations
- Stay calm
Earlier this year, I wrote a comprehensive guide with the top 16 tips to network like a pro. If you’ve reached this far I can guarantee that you’ll like it. Download the FREE Ebook here.
We’re always up for a chat, so get in touch. Outside ideas are on a mission to help people and businesses grow.