Networking can feel daunting for many. The idea of walking up to strangers at an event to spark up a conversation may fill the average person with panic, anxiety and could give them clammy hands.
Here are some tips to help you along your way:
BreatheTake a deep breath and relax. Remember if you’re at a networking event everyone present is there for the same reason as you: to network and make connections. Try doing some deep breathing exercises to help you calm down: breathe in on the count of four, hold for the count of four and slowly release your breath for the count of four.
Attend eventsThere are events for every industry, be it tradeshows, meet-up events, conferences, breakfast seminars or lunch events. They all provide great networking opportunities. Make sure you are researching and attending relevant events to make new contacts.
Interact onlineDon’t forget there are plenty of opportunities to network online via social platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook where you can find various groups with which to engage. There is also Instagram and Twitter, where you can participate in chats such as ‘#Bizhour’ which provide an opportunity to network with others from around the world.
Be visibleThere’s no point going to a networking event and then hiding in the corner. Let your presence be known –go and introduce yourself and don’t forget to take your business cards. Remember to note down your new contacts.
Be yourselfDon’t feel the need to put on false pretences or inflate the truth in order to impress others – we are all at different stages in our business journey. Yes, you want to make a good impression but you can do that by being your true authentic self.
Listen attentivelyNetworking allows you to tell others what you are doing and about work you have planned. But take care not to go on and on about yourself. You don’t want to take over the conversation. It’s important to listen attentively to those with whom you engage and interact, whether online or offline.
Be confident and thoughtfulNetworking takes some confidence, you have to belief in yourself and your expertise. Sell yourself and your skills but also be helpful. If you meet someone that isn’t looking for your service, but you happen to know someone else who can help them, why not connect them? It’s good to help others and this leaves a good impression. What goes around comes around and it’s nice to be nice.
Don’t be afraid to ask questionsIf you have a question, want an introduction or would like some advice – ask. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Don’t be afraid to circulateSometimes you can get into a comfort zone by speaking to people with whom you really connect and gel. You may have lots in common, which is great, but remember to keep your eye on the goal, which is to network.
Long-term visionMaking new contacts is the point of networking, but more often than not, it’s the long-term relationships that lead to work and business deals being made. Focus on developing mutually-beneficial relationships and think long-term.
They may not need you now but maybe they will in the future. Stagy in touch and keep it genuine and professional.
Remember to follow-upFollowing up sounds like an obvious thing to say and do but you’d be surprised at how quickly things can slip out of our minds.
It’s really important to follow up with the contacts you’ve made. Instead of putting down the business cards to collect dust, take some time the day after you meet new contacts to send an email to let them know it was great to meet them and to stay in touch. It’s also a good chance for you to remind them of the services you offer and that you are there to help if needed.
Keep your wordIf you make a contact and promise to do something for them, be sure to get it done. You don’t want to look flaky and unreliable by not following through with something. It’s not a great way to make an impression.
Ebony Gayle is an author, independent consultant and owner of Ebony Gayle Communications
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