Do you dread Networking Events?
Is it just me, or do other people also dread Networking events? Why is that? Why do we become anxious about introducing ourselves and our business to strangers? Are we worried that no one will be interested in what we have to say?
I guess most people want to fit in and be liked, but that can be difficult to achieve at a short networking event, which only allows a very narrow margin of time to make an impression.
Just like any other business, as a Virtual Assistant, I need to attend a lot of networking events to connect with people whom I can help, and who in turn, can help me. I do feel a certain degree of trepidation before attending an event, so I decided that I have to prepare in advance, to help me get over my fears so that I can get the most out of networking opportunities. Having researched a little (I love Google) I have put together a Networking Checklist which I am sharing with you!
Have you done your Research?
Make sure you understand what you have signed up to. Take some time to review the details of the networking event. You should know who is running the event and why, whether there will be speakers and what they will be presenting. I believe you should also make sure that the speaker topics are of interest to you otherwise you may not be meeting with like-minded people. For instance, I have no interest in Accounting or Financial services so I would not be interested in attending events focussed on those subjects nor do I provide accounting or bookkeeping services. If you are sent an attendee list in advance, make sure you spend some time finding out more about the other attendees (I love Google). You may find that you want to connect with a particular person at the event.
Have you fully prepared?
Apart from collecting lots of business cards, you also need to think about how you are going to present yourself. The whole point of networking is to connect with other people who may be interested in your business services, or equally important, building relationships with people who may be able to refer you on to other people and vice versa. It’s vital that you are able to convey what you do in a clear and understandable way. For some business owners, it can be easy enough, as their business is self-explanatory.
For example: “My name is Jane Brown and I am a bespoke jewellery designer”. So now I know what Jane does, and I’m pretty sure that she makes and sells high-quality designer jewellery. I can now ask her more questions about where she retails etc.
For others, they need to be more specific.
For example “My name is Joan Kelly and I am a web developer.” To be honest, I still have no idea what Joan does exactly, or how I can help her. But if Joan said, “I build and design business websites”. I would immediately understand what she does and could let her know about someone I know who needs a new website.
This is mine.
“I’m Gillian and I help small business owners with their Marketing, Social Media and Administration, and I do that remotely so it costs them less and makes their lives easier!”.
Make sure you become expert at describing what you do in an easily manageable sentence and practise it!
Have you checked the Event Details?
Just make sure that you know what time the event starts and where exactly it’s located. Is there parking, public transport etc. This is obvious, but arriving on time makes a better impression. In fact, arriving early offers you ample opportunity to chat over coffee with the other early birds and to relax into the occasion.
How are you going to engage with other attendees?
So you are all set now. All you have to do is attend on time, be open to conversation, introduce yourself in one manageable sentence, listen to what the other person is saying, take an interest and ask questions, ask for a business card, as then, they will probably ask for yours. When it’s time to move on, offer your hand and wish them continued success! Actually, this can be an awkward moment as you don’t want to appear rude and leave the person alone. You can also just gently suggest that you both continue to mingle either together or separately.
Have you followed up?
Finally, the next day, it may be worthwhile to go through the business cards and connect with those contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, with a short note suggesting you keep in touch!
Do you know what! Now that I have my Networking Checklist, I don’t think I feel that dread anymore! Oh, and as a special thank you for reading my blog, check out this Ted Talk on Networking skills.