8 SURVIVAL TIPS TO HELP YOU ENJOY MAKING BUSINESS CONNECTIONS
If you hate business networking and the mere thought of it gives you hives, you’re not alone.
For many solo and small business owners, especially those of us that work remotely, one attraction of working for ourselves is being alone. The lockdown days might have seemed like a dream. Staying home, working in your Uggs and Oodie, connecting via Zoom or a social media chat.
Now that the world is starting to re-open, you’re probably starting to receive invites for actual in-person events.
I enjoy meeting new people. Sure, I still get nervous walking into a room of strangers, but 15 years of doing it in my diplomatic life gave me lots of practice.
Even though I still get nervous, these days I’m more likely to go up and chat to a stranger. I know that if I don’t, I’ll kick myself later. I still think of myself as shy. At a recent event, a comment from a friend made me realise I’ve obviously pushed past those awkward feels.
So, I had a think about the things that have helped me enjoy, survive recent business networking events.
1. Pick events that interest you
This might sound obvious, but don’t go to events just because you think you should. Check out events your friends have been to.
Look at the people attending.
- Do they look like your people?
- Does the timing and location suit you?
- Is the speaker someone you want to listen to?
2. Find a friend or take a posse
This might not sound like super professional advice, but who cares? Hopefully, you’ve got a business buddy or two you can attend events with. If not, don’t lose hope. Pick events where you can network in advance or where you’re fairly sure there will be people like you.
Don’t be afraid to let the organisers know you’re coming solo. I went to an event when I first arrived in the Barossa. The organiser didn’t recognise my name, reached out and set up a coffee date so I wouldn’t feel so lonely.
Attending the Huddle in Orange in May with my Barossa friends Alice and Alice was a fantastic experience.
3. Focus on connections, not sales
Networking has a bad name because there are events where people are just focused on sales. I think we can all agree to avoid those events with a barge pole.
Treat networking events as opportunities to meet people like you. Hell, they might even be your competitors. Make friends. You don’t even need to hand out a business card.
Just head along with an open mind. I can honestly say that thanks to events hosted by SA Woman and others over the last few years, I’ve met some women I truly consider friends.
4. Practice your elevator pitch
Being able to confidently say what you do can make all the difference. Develop a 30-second elevator pitch or introduction and practice it over and over. That way, when someone asks you what you do, even if you’re nervous, you don’t need to think.
5. Wear something you feel confident in
For most of my diplomatic life, I wore very corporate suits. As I got older, I decided I could be a bit more adventurous. I was working in Hanoi, which was hot and steamy, and discovered an amazingly creative and colourful brand called Chula.
These days in the Barossa I make a lot of my own clothes. Having bright, colourful clothes (with pockets) can be a networking tactic. People will come and comment, it’s an icebreaker.
6. Make the most of the Q&A session
This suggestion might make you nervous, but if there’s an opportunity to ask a question, do it. You’ll have a chance to introduce yourself. So even if you don’t feel confident enough to go up to others, there might be people who want to find you.
7. Use social media to connect with others
These days, lots of events have an option to connect via social media in advance. Make the most of it.
Before the Huddle in Orange, the organisers (the fab ladies from Jumbled) set-up a Facebook page. It was a great way for people to introduce themselves and for the organisers to update information.
Once in Orange, the event hashtag was a great way to connect with other attendees.
8. Enjoy yourself
Hopefully, with the tips above, you know longer hate business networking and you’re keen to head to your next event.
Focus on hanging out with good people, enjoying a nice meal or a glass of wine, learning from the speaker.
If you can stop worrying about impressing people, or making a sale. Building solid business connections is all about playing the long game.
Some final thoughts
Networking isn’t about how many business cards you collect.Networking isn’t about – and shouldn’t be about how many business cards you collect. #BusinessConnections #HateBusinessNetworking #BusinessNetworking Click To Tweet
You shouldn’t need to sign-up to regular meetings or meet arbitrary targets about the number of follow up calls you’re going to make.
Networking isn’t just about meeting business prospects.
It can be about meeting people facing the same challenges.
Networking can simply be:
- Having a safe space to vent or ask questions
- Finding someone that you trust you can refer work to
- Debriefing on a difficult client
- Exchanging stories about the challenges of juggling a business with being a parent, spouse, sibling child and friend
- Making friends you can laugh and relax with
I’d love to know how you feel. Do you hate business networking? Or is it something you enjoy?
Over to you
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