Networking is one of those things we all know we need to do, but never get around to because we’re too busy doing other things. Too busy building our customer base, enhancing our brand, winning more business… but the funny thing is, networking is the route to all of these things. So we don’t put it off because we’re too busy to network, but because we’re nervous.
Walking into a room full of people and making conversation with strangers is always difficult, so of course you’re going to feel a little uncomfortable. In fact, you’ll probably wish the ground would swallow you up with the number of awkward silences you’ll encounter at first. But the thing to remember is it’ll get easier the more you do it. Nobody is a born networker and everyone gets nervous when approaching strangers in a room.
When I was building my first business, networking was one of my pet peeves. I was young, inexperienced and completely new to the market so I always found it really tough to strike up a conversation without any formal introductions. However, being very determined (and a little stubborn) I stuck to it, made it part of my weekly schedule and my efforts paid off.
Remember, the more you spread your name and talk to other people in your industry, the more new opportunities are likely to arise.
Some of the best deals I have been involved with have come about as a result of chance conversations. Trust me, you’d be surprised by the amount of interest you can drum up from a genuine, one-to-one conversation.
The best advice I can give you is to be prepared. Most of the time, there will be a list of attendees available for you to browse before an event. This is your chance to develop pre-connections.
Check out their LinkedIn profile, find out something about them and use it as an ice breaker. Not only will you break any awkward silences but you’ll also make a good impression and be the person they remember. If someone starts a conversation by mentioning somewhere you used to work, where you attended university or any communities you’re a member of – you’re instantly engaged.
Let people know your movements – use your social networks to tell everyone how excited you are to network and where and when they can meet you. Don’t forget, you’re giving up your time to attend this event so you need to take something from it.
Make an effort and don’t let the experience become a waste of time. Even if you don’t find a new client straight away, the chances of meeting someone who knows someone who could do with your help are pretty significant.
Everything starts with a conversation. Make yours count. Good luck!