Do you LOVE Networking?
Do you believe it’s a valuable tool for building your brand? Almost every industry pushes the benefits of networking and has the data to back it up. BUT not everyone buys in. Why not? What’s not to like about a free drink coupon and some apps? You could gain a new client, make a valuable connection, find your dream job, or simply make a new friend.
The reality is that many of us get anxious even thinking about chatting with strangers. After an exhausting day of billing, talking to clients, or staring at a screen, the thought of walking into a room full of strangers and striking up conversation is exhausting. I get that. Sometimes, you find yourself interrupting other’s conversations or waiting on the outside of a circle like the new kid in sixth grade. Not a great feeling!
I've been there and done that, so the tips below helped me actually grow to enjoy networking, and I have been reaping the personal and professional benefits ever since! Check out the tips below. I challenge you to try one out in the next month, and let me know if it helped!
Be a Stalker
Stalking - not advisable under any other circumstance! We often find ourselves on social media “learning” all about our friend’s ex-wife’s brother's new girlfriend – so why not use those internet skills in a more productive way? Find out who the speakers or attendees will be for an event before arrival. Identify three key contacts you want to meet and seek them out. This gives you a purpose. Do your internet research on each contact so you have some good ice breakers and feel prepared. The event will be much more engaging now that you can actively look for the people you want to engage. No matter what your goal is – walking in knowledgeable will provide the much needed guidance for a potentially intimidating situation.
Bring a Friend
Independence is great, but sometimes bringing a colleague along to an event can be the perfect security blanket you need. Your friend probably wants to network, but does not want to go alone. Share with each other the key contacts you want to meet and partner to find those contacts and start discussions. Also, plan to introduce the contacts you already have to your friend and vice versa to help expand your circles. Once you are both comfortable, you can divide and conquer, then find each other again once you need an exit strategy from a discussion.
Stay in Touch
Business cards may seem like an archaic tool, but they are still really functional so be sure to bring them! Putting a face to a name is important and the only way to gain anything from these events is to reconnect with new contacts. Once you get home, go ahead and find your new connections on LinkedIn. Emails are also great and can serve as a more professional follow-up. Send a note, thank them for connecting and chatting with you, and set up a coffee or lunch date - the sooner the better. Let’s face it, our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. If you don’t reach out now, you’ll never do it. Honestly, if you’ve made it through this post – I’m impressed!
I’d love to hear about your best networking tip. Reach out and let me know. If you are in the Atlanta market, like me – check out some of the networking opportunities coming up or attend one of my events. You can follow me on Eventbrite to make sure you don't miss out!