Networking is an essential, yet often terrifying, aspect of business growth. If walking into a room full of strangers is not your cup of tea, you’re not alone.
Everyone understands the value of networking, but few enjoy it. So, what can you do to make networking more fun and productive for you? Here are some tips to help you overcome your fear of networking:
- Use the buddy system. Having someone to go with to a networking event can make walking into a room of strangers a bit more comfortable. Make sure they know your business and you know theirs. You may be able to help one another make beneficial connections.
- Set a goal prior to heading out. Make a commitment to yourself before the event. If you are new to networking start small, perhaps a goal of making one new connection will be enough. If you are going with someone, share your goal with that person. They may be able to help you fulfill it.
- Find the wallflower. Chances are you are not the only person in the room that fears networking. Find a person that is not engaged with anyone else, and see if you can help them make a connection.
- Avoid friends. Don’t spend the entire event talking to people you know already. Networking is about making new business connections. It’s okay to build on current relationships, but you shouldn’t spend the entire event doing so.
- Have a well-prepared (and practiced) elevator pitch. A well-prepared pitch doesn’t have to sound like an advertisement. It’s about having an understanding of your offerings, knowing who your audience is, and being able to deliver the message in a concise manner.
- Ask questions. By asking questions, you are not only engaging potential connections in the conversation, but you are also providing yourself with valuable follow up information. This information will help you tailor your pitch, as well as customize your follow up to how your products/services can solve their problems.
- Value your business cards. Don’t just hand out business cards to everyone you meet. Take the time to understand if what you are offering is applicable to someone, or if they can help you in your business growth.
- Dress your best. If you feel good about your appearance, you will automatically be more confident in talking to someone new. Above all, wear something you are sure will present the right image about yourself and your company.
- Take notes. Keep notes on important people that you have met. It will help you remember who’s who when you get back with a stack of business cards. It will also help you personalize your follow up, which will be much more effective.
- Have a follow up plan. When you schedule in a networking event, schedule in your follow up time as well. You should be following up on connections you make in a timely manner. You will be more likely to be remembered if you make your follow up within a week of the event. It’s also a great way to set yourself apart, which is where most people fall short.