A few days ago this conversation happened with a coaching client*.
* Permission to post was granted, don't worry!
Client: I need to go to this networking thing but I don't like going to these things.
Me: why not?
Client: I don't know what to say, what to do. I feel shy around all the suits and business cards.
Client: I don't know! I guess they seem so professional and like they know what they're doing there, you know?
Me: uh- huh.
Client: I'm not going.
Me: yes, you are.
Conclusions I reached:
1. She is intimidated by large groups and formal situations.
2. She suffers from imposter syndrome ( she runs a successful wedding registry service in Dubai).
3. She has a false idea of what networking is and this creates fear.
4. When her fear became overwhelming she retreated from it, or became immobilized by it.
So, in the interests of helping my client and any of you that feel the same kinda way about networking, I though I'd break it down into easy to digest bits.
I'll focus on #3 since the others are rather more personal and for future sessions. Hopefully this post will go some way towards helping her,and others like her, face her fears.
What is networking?
Networking is a meeting of like minded individuals in the interest of building relationships, business contacts and making friends. It's a valuable resource for those wanting to take their career or business to the next level.
Why do you need to go?
It is the best opportunity to meet people in the same or similar industries as yours. It's a chance to meet and connect with (in a real way )industry giants, movers and shakers, and other influencers.
What do you need to know?
Networking can be a pain if you're not prepared. I like to think of these events like a presentation to a client. My motto is " Be prepared".
- As with everything, know your Why. What do you intend to do at a networking event? Do you want to meet people who can help you and your business? Do you want to make some industry contacts? Do you want to learn from others in your field?
- Have plenty of business cards. They're often required at the door and you'll introduce yourself to others by swapping cards.
- Perfect your elevator pitch. This is your 11 second pitch that introduces you, your services and prompts a question that leads to a conversation.
- Dress the part. If you're comfortable in a suit, wear something that you like and that fits well. If not, wear a dress and a blazer or cardigan.
You're at the event. Now what?
- Be interested and interesting. Smile, practice a warm, firm handshake. Make eye contact.
- Circulate and keep conversations brief. You are there to meet as many people as possible.
- Initiate conversations, ask "What do you do?"
- Listen for opportunities to offer help, not to make a sale. "I'm interested in helping with ( insert problem here). Would you like to meet sometime this week to discuss how I can do that?".
- Set up follow up meetings with people you find helps you answer your Why. Ask if they'd like to meet again, and make your intention clear. Don't waste people's time. "I'd love to meet with you again this week. I'm eager to work with you on ( insert your Why). Would that be something you'd be interested in?"
- Never hog a person's time. Be mindful of others that may want to talk to them and make a connection.
What happens when I really don't like formal networking events?
Fair question. I have attended events held at cafes, called a Breakfast Networking Event. I've seen some people set up Weekend Networking events at spas, hotels and holiday homes. I've heard of events set up in someone's backyard with a braai! Some ladies groups do networking at salons over manis and pedis. Anything's possible!
Can I set up my own kind of networking event?
Of course you can! You decide where, when and how. Invite people that help you with your Why and then invite others who may find value. That's it, really.
I get that not everyone likes to put themselves out there, but once you're clear on your intention, finding value in any networking event becomes fun! My client attended her event and loved it! She is even signing up to the Dubai Meetup group so she can be included in future events! Great job!
What about you? Do you enjoy networking events? What do you like about them and what value do you think they bring to you and your career or business? Let me know in the comments.
Until next I blog,