Networking can be a joyful experience ... or it can be a dreadful experience. And the difference between the joyful and the dreadful comes down to one major thing. Preparation.
Preparation is everything when it comes to having a great experience and for making a great impression when you are out networking.
How best to prepare? Here are a few tips that will get you started on the right track.
What do you want to accomplish? What are your goals or desired outcome for your time spent networking? Are you looking for referrals to grow your business? Are you looking for resources to help within your business? Are you focused on building goodwill with no immediate need now for yourself but with a focus on the future? Are you looking to be a resource of information for others? What you want to accomplish will have a lot to do with what it is that you say.
So, what are you going to say? What information do you want people to absorb from you? If you aren't sure what you want to say or get across to people ... they will not work extra hard to figure it out for you. When you know what your message is you can relax and enjoy being with other people and sharing the experience in an easy and flowing way. They will, in turn relax and enjoy learning about your business and isn't that what we all want?
Be clear in your communication and people will respond to you with interest and with questions. If you want people to hear your message and repeat it for you (word of mouth marketing), your message has to be remarkable, memorable, and repeatable. To do this, you have to get sticky. And, by that, I mean that your message has to stick in their mind.
You have got to take up some space in the mental rolodex of the people you meet. Now, granted that's a tall order for a one minute message which is what you normally get when you are out networking.
You can make this fun for yourself and others by finding an interesting hook or twist that makes you stand out and makes you stick in the mind of your audience.
Anne Lindsay is a photographer who specializes in black & white photography. She always wears one black shoe and one white shoe when she goes networking. It's fun and different. Sticky and memorable!
Get creative like Anne and the result will be more referrals for you because people remember you and what you do. More referrals is a very good thing!
If people are not interested in what you are saying, it might be that you are more focused on what's in it for yourself ... when what your audience really wants is for you to be focused on what's in it for them. This is one very easy change that you can make in your "talking points" that will change how people react to and remember you.
Make it all about them and I promise that you will find more people becoming interested in what you have to offer. And, more importantly, they will tell their friends about you as well.
And, please make sure to tell a story rather than telling a string of facts. People will remember a story long after it's been told. But they will forget most facts before you are even done talking!
Who are you planning to meet? A lot of people have a real comfort issue with this one. It is way easier to gravitate toward people that you already know when you attend an event. It is typically pretty uncomfortable for most people to spend time with people that they don't already know. Why is that? Well, we all want to feel important and appreciated. As my friend, Nancy Juetten, always says ... folks want to be seen, heard, and celebrated in their own backyard. And no one celebrates us quite like our family and friends do!
Strangers can be downright unappreciative of us for they don't yet know how grand we are. So we tend to stay where we are comfortable. And we miss out on many opportunities because of it.
Make it a point to meet at least 3 new people at every event you attend. Even better, if you can get a copy of the attendee list prior to an event, make a list of the 3 people that you would like to meet and then do a little research on them before the event. It's quite simple to Google a person by name to see if they have a website or a blog so you can be knowledgeable and complimentary to them when you meet them.
Talk about joyful. Most bloggers can't get their mom to read their blog. Imagine how happy someone would be to find out that you actually read their recent blog post and took the time to seek them out in person to compliment them on it. Go make someone's day! Easy to do with proper planning and preparation.
What are you going to wear? Whenever you are at a business function (and nearly all networking events are business functions) you are promoting your brand. And people are deciding based on all impressions of you whether or not they will do business with you or refer you to people that they know. Pay attention to your attire. Your clothing should be event appropriate and suitable for business. Your image will leave a mark either way, so why not make the effort to leave a great, professional, and lasting impression. One that is likely to get you the kind of attention you desire and the referrals that you deserve.
What are you going to take with you to the event? This is so basic it should be apparent. At a minimum, you should have your business cards and a pen with you at all times when you are networking.
And finally, where are you going and what time does the event begin. You'll find more enjoyment for yourself and much less stress when you plan ahead to arrive early. So take a moment the day before the event, make sure you know where it is and when it is. And then plan to leave 20 minutes earlier than you think you really need to. If you arrive early, you can help by volunteering and that will be a great boost to your visibility.
Most people don't plan to fail at networking ... they just fail to plan. You can easily make your networking time enjoyable for yourself and for those around you when you make time in your day to plan ahead for the events you will be attending.
And the joyful part of this is that you'll be more relaxed, friendly, and approachable which in turn makes it easier for people to feel comfortable with you. When they feel comfortable, they are more likely to grow to know, like, and trust you ... which leads to referrals ... which leads to more business for you. It's all good stuff!
The Joy of Networking to you ... and happy connecting!