“I hate networking.” I hear this a lot from ladies and gentlemen I meet when I tell them what I do for a living. “It makes me feel uncomfortable, like I have to put on an act.” “Who wants to walk into a room with a bunch of strangers in there?” Well that’s exactly how I felt when I began networking. How nerve-racking!
I’ve been networking for eight years now and totally love it, which is why I set up my own groups, the Busy Women Network. I think that in today’s world, networking is a necessity for all sizes of business from sole traders to corporates. Building and nurturing professional relationships lead to those all-important opportunities we all need to keep our businesses running.
Luckily for me, I really enjoyed networking once I started and learnt the art of how to do it successfully fairly early on. I love helping people make the most of their networking and seeing their businesses go from strength to strength, so I thought I’d share my top tips with you, so you too can enjoy the benefits networking brings.
Prepare what you’ll wear, how many business cards to take with you, what promotional material you’ll take (if any) and of course, your one-minute pitch. If you’re not a confident networker, write out what you want to say and practice in front of your partner or a mirror.
Your pitch should consist of your name and what you do, how you do it and your call to action. You should always keep to that one minute as people won’t be able to take in much more information and are likely to lose interest in what you’re saying. People need to understand what you’re looking for: is it new customers, contacts in an industry or people to spread the word about what you do.
The people you’re talking to have a network of people who you don’t even know. They could know your ideal customer so always be open minded and give everyone a chance.
If you have promised to give someone a contact, always remember to send it to them with a follow-up email as soon as possible. If someone wants a quote or more information about what you do, the same applies; follow up as soon as you can. The easiest way to discourage people from passing you anymore referrals is to forget or not bother to email or call.
I know this is easier said than done. Just remember, everyone there is in the same position as you and are therefore likely be very supportive. Making a checklist the night before might help to calm your nerves. Your checklist should include:
However you feel about networking, I suggest you give it a go. I can assure you you’ll be glad you went afterwards!
*Aruna Rao is founder of the Busy Women Network. Find her at www.busywomen.net or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweet her at twitter.com/arunabwn, facebook.com/bwnetworking. If you would like to visit any of her groups across Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire or Cambridgeshire (with St Albans, Hertfordshire launching in October 2018), get in touch via her website or email.