You are faced with a room full of strangers. People are beginning to introduce themselves and you edge towards the coffee table to buy yourself some more time before you have to start the process.
Your heart begins to beat faster and faster and that anxious knot begins to rear its ugly head, finally nestling down firmly in the pit of your stomach. You gaze around, bemused at how easy those around you make it look.
Yes, you are networking. It can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not naturally a sales person or are relatively new to the process. Luckily, there are a couple of tricks and tips that may help battle your ‘inner knot monster’ and give you the confidence you need to make a great impression on those potential new contacts around you.
Do your research and be prepared
When attending an event with business networking opportunities, it may help to do a little research on those attending or speaking. This way, you’re armed with a sense of familiarity and you can even reach out to those beforehand (be it on social media or via email) so you don’t feel as though you are going in completely blind. Plus, being prepared means having everything you need: make sure you’re not in danger of your phone battery dying or running out of business cards.
Avoid a script, but prepare a few lines
Having a scripted pitch may mean you risk coming across as phoney or cheesy. If you’re busy trying to remember every single word of it, you may trip up and find yourself worse off than if you hadn’t prepared an elevator pitch at all. Instead, it is more advisable to come up with a couple of bitesize phrases you can use to describe your job and activities. That way there’s less pressure on remembering a specific lot of information, but you’ll still feel prepared enough to speak about yourself with confidence.
It will also allow you to pinpoint exactly what you want to get out of that networking opportunity. What’s the most important thing for you and your business right now? How can you get that across within a few sentences?
Although you may feel the pressure more than those around you, networking is of course not all about your experience. People are there to talk about themselves and their business, so it is important that you make time and show a genuine interest in what they do. This way they are more likely to return the favour. When someone shows a genuine interest in your passion you’re more likely to respond well to them, right?
Open ended questions
A great way to carry on a conversation when you’re not naturally a big talker is to ask open ended questions. If you’ve attended a lecture or event, ask them what they thought of something particular, not just whether they enjoyed it. This can extend to small talk too, from how they found their journey in to what they think of President Trump.
If you do make some connections, make sure you follow up within a suitable time frame. This will show they’re important to you, and that you are reliable. If you’re more comfortable with written communication than face-to-face interaction, continue to build your relationship in a way that suits you.
Most importantly, remember to build relationships
Ultimately, people do business with other people, so building relationships is key to being a successful networker. Be genuine. It’s not bad to admit you’re nervous; in fact, it’s more likely to come across as endearing than as a sign of weakness. The people you’re meeting are probably nervous too – they’re just better at hiding it.