Many people feel daunted by the prospect of ‘Networking’, but in reality it is something which everyone can do, and need not be frightening at all!
For now I’d like to focus on the networking events – those events which are meant to be opportunities for you to develop new business contacts for business or personal connections.
As a keen networker I have been to probably hundreds of events and have summarised the first 3 of my ‘Top Ten Tips’ below:
- Be clear on your PURPOSE – and in my view this is not to sell! I’ve talked to networking groups and asked everyone who is there to sell their products or services to raise their hands. Usually the majority of hands in the room go up. Then I ask ‘who has come here to be sold to?’, surprise, surprise, hardly anyone’s hand goes up. So take the pressure off of yourself and set your objectives as being more along the lines of ‘identifying contacts in the xyz industry’ or ‘someone with expertise in …’
Remember that people really only do business with those they know, like and trust – which all takes time.
2. Do your homework on who will be there. Most events publish lists of attendees, or have websites which show the names of the members of the group. Now you are clear on your purpose for attending, you can be more selective about who you will want to meet and spend time with.
3. Have a clear ‘Elevator Pitch’ – this comes from the notion that if we were stuck in an elevator with someone who asks ‘what is it that you do?’ we would have a clear explanation to give in the time it takes for the lift to travel a few floors – about 3 mins is the usual time allocated. So in just 3 mins, what are the key points to come across? A simple struture might be:
“my name is………… and my company is…………………..we help people to achieve ………. So who do you know who has problems with…….’
There are many variations on this structure, but the purpose is to help people you meet to be clear about who are your best contacts, and what are the problem areas you can help alleviate. If you keep in mind that the people you are meeting are not necessarily your end user, but they could well be introducers or advocates for your services, then you need to provide enough information in a short period of time to help them to help you.
So, these are my top 3 tips – the hardest of which is getting that elevator pitch right! The key is to practice, practice, practice. Try recording yourself first, and then sign up for the next available networking event and put it into practice with some friends. Ask for their feedback, after you’ve told them what you do, can they think of 3 people it would be useful to connect you with?