We used to just call it ‘meeting people’, but in this increasingly connected business world we all live in, it’s become known as networking. Having a time to meet potential new business contacts, partners or suppliers can happen online, but despite our reliance on website marking by SEO experts, social networking and email, there is still a lot to be said for doing it the old fashioned way.
Whilst it’s always been an incredibly useful business tool to have in your arsenal, networking is not always as easy as it sounds. If you aren’t a particularly gregarious, outgoing sort of person, networking can hold its own share of trepidation. Walking into a room full of people you probably don’t know can be a terrifying prospect, but that doesn’t mean you can’t mingle with the best of them and use it to your advantage. Let’s take a look at 3 great networking tips for the proud introvert.
1. Preparation. Preparation. Preparation.
If you’re attending a networking event and are already feeling uneasy at the thought of it, then you can help yourself by preparing well in advance. For many people, particularly those who are more introverted, a room full of strangers can cause anxiety which can affect business prospects, so you need to turn the tables.
The first thing to try is to get there before the event starts. It might be fashionable to be late, but it’s advantageous to be early. It’s less intimidating if you’re one of the first to arrive, when conversations and relationships may have already been formed. It’s also helpful because you can get in early and instigate conversations with other early birds.
Connect before the event on social
It’s also worth remembering that other attendees are only ‘strangers’ because you don’t know them yet. Don’t wait for the event to come around to remedy that. If there’s a hashtag for the event, use social media to try and connect with people prior to the event itself. There may also be a Facebook event or a Google hangout you can use to engage with other attendees.
By engaging with other people, who may well be feeling like you, it’s a great way to break the ice and ensure that the room you’re entering won’t be full of strangers after all. You could even arrange to meet beforehand for coffee or arrange a discussion for a particular time.
2. It’s All About You!
That's not intended to be a selfish proclamation, but more of a reminder about what networking is really for. A meeting or a seminar is different, it’s about the host or the company delivering the show, but a networking event is about you, in the same way it’s about the other people there too. You’re attending an event to gain new insight, make new connections and spread your business circle a little wider for the benefit of you, no-one else.
Set your goals
Before you get embroiled in conversations, take time to remember why you’re there and what you’re hoping to achieve. Create an agenda to help you guide the conversations you’ll have and work towards specific outcomes that will benefit you and your business. This will include talking about who you are, what you want to achieve and, if necessary, the kind of help you need. To help you achieve this, prepare some questions in advance that you can ask of any potential customers, suppliers or partners.
3. Make It Work For You
You might think that it’ll be the extroverts that are always the ones who are going to succeed at these networking events, but that is simply not the case. People are always going to respond to the person, not the persona, and it’s not a competition for who can amass the most business cards. Be yourself and you’re going to go much further.
There are a number of tips to help you achieve exactly this. You could start with some smaller events and work your way up or, if you’re jumping in at the deep end of the networking pool, be honest and open on how you feel. It may prove to be a nice ice-breaker and others will be appreciative that you’re there at all. Ultimately you have to find an approach that works for you, your personality and your comfort level.
You can always contact Whitehat who as a London based Digital Marketing agency as always ready to meet and help out other business owners. You can also come along for free to network at one of our London HUG events.
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