Okay, you’ve got your business cards in hand, you’ve got your (what a friend of mine calls) “happy to meet you” clothes on, and you’re in a room full of people that are not yet associates. So what’s your next step.
If it’s your first time out, you’re around people that either are just as new and nervous as you are, or people that have been exactly where you are at some point in time. Most people really want to see you succeed. The more healthy businesses there are in a community, the healthier the community is overall. I’ve seen people that I know who are strong and confident but have that “deer in headlights” look when walking into a room of strangers, and I’m sure if there was a mirror around, I’d even see that look on my face. We all have times that we are less confident and assured. Take a moment, take a deep breath, and relax.
During the introduction portion, don’t get too nervous. State your name and business, say a little bit about your business, state your name and business again, and sit down (and relax). Make sure you state your name and business at the open and close of your introduction. If there’s time, before the official start of the event, make sure to walk around and say “Hello” to some people that are new to you.
If you’re at an event that you often attend and you see someone new walk in, go to them, say “Hello,” and ask about their business. Introduce them to one or two people they might need to know.
It’s not about selling yourself
Well, it is, but it really isn’t. It’s about getting to know other people and letting them get to know you. Epictetus was a first century Green philosopher who was the first to point out that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. There are a few good reasons to do this when networking
- Listening, especially to people that are regularly attendees of the group, will help you understand the town and expectations of any group.
- Listening will help you better understand the business and the needs of the individuals in the group.
- People love to feel heard.
I have been to networking groups with as many as 80 people. Very few people could remember all those names at the end of an event. One thing that I do at any event is to make sure to have a piece of paper and a pen. I take notes on every person that I meet. I also have “secret” notations for people that I want to have a one-on-one with (more on those next week) or people that I want to touch base with for another reason. Sometimes when I receive a business card I may put a notation on the card (e.g., send this person information on Google hangouts).
Determine your description
At almost all networking events, you will be expected to introduce yourself. Sometimes you’ll have 30 seconds, sometimes you’ll have a minute. I’ve even been to one group that allows you to have introductory time without a stopwatch (but they expect you to keep things reasonable). You don’t need to worry about the time limits if you practice a 30-second and 60-second introduction in advance. Personally, I typically run about 5-10 seconds short but I do know a few people that suggest using all of your time. If you visit the same groups regularly, you can talk about a different aspect of your business at each meeting to give people a feeling for the different services you offer.
Sometimes you might share a ride with a friend or colleague to an event. Sometimes you might run into someone that you know. While it’s great to catch up with old colleagues, when you’re at a networking event, you’re there to make new contacts.
Have your contact information handy
Order business cards. You can do this online or from a local vendor (and if you’re in the Naperville area, I have some recommendations).
I’ll confess though, i cheated on this the first time out. I had ordered some business cards but I had also decided to go to a networking event. The cards did not arrive in time, so I went to Office Depot or Staples and purchased some blank business cards. My cards arrived later that weekend.
The first few times you go out you might be stammering over your 30-second introduction. There might be times you forget your business cards. You may get nervous or flustered or forget some points you wanted to make. But the important thing is that you go out and you meet people.
MEET, GREET, REPEAT
We will continue this topic next week and talk about follow up.
- 8 tips for more efficient business networking offline (agbeat.com)
- What “Not To Do” When Networking (oneinsightcloser.com)
- What “To Do” When Networking (oneinsightcloser.com)
- Building Your Business Through Networking Part 2 (marywuva.com)