Networking 101 is for you if:
- You are new to networking.
- You are an introvert and need a bit of coaching.
- You know that networking is crucial to your business but don’t know where to begin.
Networking 101 is not for you if:
- You are comfortable networking already.
- You don’t need to build your network.
- You don’t want anyone to know about your business.
Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen – Brene Brown
Does the idea of walking into a room full of people and talking about yourself make you anxious? It’s human nature to want to avoid emotions that make us uncomfortable. Who wants to intentionally walk into a frightening experience? What if I told you that networking is human nature and you have a natural talent for connecting with other people? It’s true!
Have you ever given a recommendation to a friend or family member?
Maybe you talked about a product or service that you liked so much that you just had to share with your favorite people. It might have been a great movie, book, or restaurant that you thought they would enjoy. You were networking and you didn’t even know it!
Let’s Take a Quick Look at the Definition of a Network: A group of people who exchange information, contacts, and experience for professional or social purposes.
When you shared your insight you were offering a growth connection. You might say, I was only sharing with a friend and not networking. Not true! Your family and friends are the network you already have and a good place to start honing your skills. Think about what you can offer your network and how you can help them. These skills are transferrable to building your professional network.
I am going to share a secret with you that used to cause me so much anxiety. I am an introvert who desperately wishes she were more of an extrovert. It is not a flaw. We introverts have our own strengths. Over the years I have developed strategies to help me navigate situations that seem to come so naturally to my extrovert friends. I have set an intention to actively work on building authentic professional relationships. These relationships may become a business BFF. I don’t know about you but I would always choose spending time with a group of friends than a room full of strangers.
Networking Is A Necessity For Anyone Wanting To
Strengthen Their Brand
I founded a business and a non-profit based upon building community. I know that networking is a necessity for anyone wanting to strengthen their brand. I know you do too, that is why you are reading this. This is true for anyone building a professional brand.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that if you build a business they will come. They won’t. They won’t even know it exists. True story.
First, it’s important that you understand what networking is not. It is not about collecting as many business cards as humanly possible or starting awkward conversations. It should not be an exhausting time and energy zap that makes you wished you stayed home. Nobody wants to be a part of that kind of experience!
Everything you have ever wanted is one step outside of your comfort zone.
It is OK for you to feel awkward or uneasy. Remember, ROI is as much about your return on involvement as it is your investment in yourself! You may be the new face today but that will not be true forever. I will walk you through a few strategies you may use to successfully navigate a networking experience,
The Key is to Work on Your Mindset
The objective in networking is to strengthen your messaging, bridge the Like – Know – Trust factor, and understand your audience better. So how can you make networking less stressful and actually fun? The key is to work on your mindset. Leave your ego at the door and realize this isn’t about you.
Wait, what? I thought I was networking to build my brand and get my message out there. How do I do that if I don’t share it with every single person I meet the moment I meet them? Slow down and take a breath, you will have your moment and it will be magnificent.
I want you to consider that the merit of networking is in building authentic relationships before you need them. This is your chance to get to know people and see if you align. Think of it like dating. You aren’t likely to find your perfect match after one date. We talk to people and get to know them, their values, and decide if we would like to get to know them better. Only then do we feel comfortable sharing our trust and more personal stories. The same goes for building your network.
Consider why you, as an entrepreneur, want to build your network and share your message. Like most entrepreneurs, you may want to gain new clients and have a successful business allowing you to have financial freedom and realize your dreams. Does this sound like you?
The key to gaining new clients is to know how you may best solve their problems. I invite you to consider shifting your mindset from only telling your singular brand story to building a network that will support you in solving your client’s problems. Think about who that support system may be and include them in your network. This strategy will benefit you, your clients, and your network. It’s a win-win.
Your Objective is to Start a Conversation
That Gives You Some Common Ground
I’m going to share the number one thing that will make your networking experience so much simpler than you ever imagined possible.
People LOVE to talk about themselves.
I challenge you to come up with several questions that you might ask a new acquaintance before your next networking event. Don’t overthink it. Your objective is to start a conversation that gives you some common ground. This gives the other person the chance to respond and then ask you a question. Now you are having a conversation with a potential new friend. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Ice Breakers That May Work for Any Networking Event:
- How did you find out about this event?
- What’s your favorite part about what you do?
- I recently listened to a podcast about (fill in the blank) and found it really interesting. Have you listened to anything interesting lately?
- What attracted you to that specific business?
- What do you like to do when you aren’t building your empire?
- What are some of your go-to resources for getting guidance in your field of work?
- What’s your favorite thing to do?
- What’s your favorite way to network?
- Do you have recommendations for (fill in the blank). ?
- What’s on your reading list?
- Where are you from?
- What do you think about the event? (speakers, takeaways…)
- How did you decide to do what you do?
- How can I help?
Focus on Real Conversations
While you are talking be sure to give the person your full attention. Stop looking at your phone and actively listen. Be aware of your body language. Stand or sit up straight, smile, and make eye contact. Don’t overdue your signature scent, you never know who may be sensitive to strong odors.
Focus on real conversations. Unless there has been a severe weather event, avoid talking about the weather. It’s plain boring. It is perfectly acceptable to talk about things you love besides your business. When you talk about the things you are passionate about you will light up and be more engaging.
Pro-tip: I always have a fine point sharpie with me when I network. I like to make notes on business cards to help me remember conversations. I even use my own shorthand code for the things I talk about most often. For instance, WO for women owned business.
You may notice that some business cards have a glossy surface that ballpoint pens do not write on. That sharpie will save you the headache of trying to guess why you felt compelled to collect the business card in the first place.
Need More Structure?
For those needing a bit more structure to feel confident leaving a memorable impression consider practicing a story or joke that is appropriate for the audience. Practice ending a conversation gracefully. You want to leave the conversation on a high note so that the other person looks forward to future interactions with you.
One way to accomplish this is to thank the person for sharing (fill in the blank) with you. It could be a recommendation or simply their time. This is gracious because it shows that you were actively listening to the conversation and they have made a positive impact on you, no matter how small.
It is perfectly acceptable to acknowledge you enjoyed the conversation, assuming you did, and look forward to the next time you may meet.
You could say, “Julie, it was nice to meet you. I look forward to seeing you at the next Denver Women of Cannabis event.” Smile, use their name, and shake their hand (or bump elbows if you prefer). This signals that you valued the conversation and want to remember them. Make your goodbye brief.
Pro-tip: Add yourself as a contact in your phone. If you run out of business cards, or are sustainably minded, you may share your contact information without missing a beat.
Make sure you follow up with your new connections within a 72 hours. You want to remind them of your conversation. Connect with them over social media, send an email, or invite them for coffee. You would be surprised by how few people follow up.
Things You May Want To Consider
For Your Next Networking Event:
- Business Cards
- Personal Cards – for those of you in the pre-startup phase of your journey. It’s OK to not have everything figured out. You may still meet someone that you would like to exchange information with.
- CBD – I find it helps ease my anxiety.
- Breath mints or breath spray. I keep a minty fresh CBD spray in my bag
- Fine tipped sharpie
- Ask your host if you may share samples or set out marketing materials. It may be a perk reserved to vendors.
- Limit your alcohol or cannabis consumption.
- Be mindful of local laws and venue policies.
- It’s human nature to network.
- Start with your friends and family.
- You must network if you want to build a brand.
- Networking is a core strength for any entrepreneur.
- Prepare your strategy before an event.
- Exit gracefully.
- Follow up.
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