Back To Business: 5 Tips To Make Networking Again Easy
Picture It: Colorado, May 2021. A new entrepreneur decides she must start networking to build her business and tentatively enters her first in-person event. She's been isolated for over a year and this is her venture into a room with more than five people. She signs in and enters a wall of people and noise. She panics, overwhelmed, but takes herself off to a quiet place for a good talking to and, obeying the stern voice in her head, enters the fray. That entrepreneur was me. The even, an after hours put on my my local chamber of commerce, and I survived networking. And I went to a second, and a third. I joined a leads group.* None of this came easy as I'm shy by nature, but I've gotten better at it. I even learned a few things to make networking again easy.
Plan Your Time Well
Before I go, I have my direction to the venue, my game plan and business cards. I always recommend giving yourself a goal. Start general, say, get 10 business cards or really talk with 5 people. As you develop a network and grow your business, hone in on specific needs.
I also plan regroup time. These events drain me, so I don't plan anything after them. If it's an evening event, I enjoy a Netflix and chill night. If a lunch or coffee, I lay down for a 25 minute nap or read a pleasure book. Introverts like us, we know how to switch on, but remember to give yourself time off.
Have Your Answers Ready
Yes, the elevator pitch is alive and well at these things. Larger events equal noise and distraction so get to the point and save your voice. And, though it's not as common, knowing your ideal client answer should be decided upon. Both should roll out of your mouth with ease. Practice until they do.
Know You're Not Alone
Estimates vary, but recent evidence suggests that 50% of the population identify as introverts. That means that , despite how put together other seem, you are in good company. Think about it, if you're in a room with 50 people, half of them feel as uncomfortable as you do. They got better at the socializing, so you can too.
Be A Good Conversation Partner
Listen with patience and a desire to really understand your partner's needs. Confession, this is my weak spot, so I don't have any hacks or advice other than to set the intention before entering and practice, practice, practice. Probably for the rest of your life, but hey, at least you get to do what you really want, right?
Put Following-Up On Your Calendar
Yea, you got 10 business cards and found one person you really want to connect with, but you're job isn't done. You only got up at bat with the card exchange. Next step, send them an invite to connect. This doesn't have to be scare or take long. Send an email or connect on LinkedIn. Keep it simple:
Lovely to speak with you at (event name). Would love to get together and talk more. Coffee? I'm free (and offer them some dates/times so they don't have to think about it)
That it! Remember, the goal is to build a network that knows, likes and trusts you. It tends to happen one coffee meeting at a time.
Now that you know what to do, time to take the next step. Go, yes now, to the website for your local chamber or favorite networking site and sign up for their next event. Then go. It will be uncomfortable, but you're putting your heart, soul, and (often) hard earned cash into this. A little discomfort seems a small price to pay. And when you lose your nerve, just keep saying on repeat 'I got this' (or a mantra that speaks to you) because you do. Feel free to contact me and tell me how it went.
*Sorry, but I couldn't resist a Sophia Petrillo type story. You already know Dorothy is my spirit animal)