I’ll answer below and in this video:
First of all, calm down. One (or even a whopping five) networking events will not make or break your business. Lighten up a bit and look at networking as an adventure or an experiment. I love Steve Gordon’s take on it in his ConnectWorking post. Here are some tips as you navigate your trepidations:
BEFORE the event:
- Decide why you are going. You might be curious about a networking group, wanting to learn a new skill set or just going to get yourself out of the house/office. Once you get clear on who you are going to see and why, then get your game on and bring your “what.” Think of a story or two you feel comfortable sharing and bring samples of your work (on your iPhone), if relevant and fun for you.
- Research who is going to be there. Are there folks who are doing something you are interested in learning more about? What about projects they are working on that you or your work might be a good fit for? Find out all you can before you show up and you’ll feel more comfortable asking questions.
DURING the event:
- Breathe. Sometimes, just being out in public and in a group of strangers can turn an everyday extrovert into a wallflower. Take your time and ease into it.
- Just say hi. Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself to press-the-flesh and hand out as many business cards as possible. Allow yourself to just greet folks and go where the fun is in the room.
- Set your brain (and mouth) on being curious and helpful. Ask loads of questions and offer ideas or support.
AFTER the event:
- Take notes on who you met and what you talked about. I take these right onto a new contact’s business cards. Follow up as soon as possible.
- Distribute or post photos, comments on the event and connect via LinkedIn, Facebook or via your new colleague’s websites.
- Continue the conversation with some. Figure out who you want to continue to connect with and seek them out with specific requests. Remind them where you met and what you talked about. Offer them a resource that will help them solve their challenges and follow up where they offered to help you with yours.
Okay—so, you still feeling nervous? If so, check out more networking tips from Michelle Taute (on networking for people who hate networking) and Alisa Bonsignore (on how a broken foot is cramping her networking style). You’ll see how common these struggles are. You are not alone!
Let me know how you network, or ConnectWork, in the comments.
BTW: Not sure about the best place to network? Find out during the free webcast on November 1: Start NOW: Your 2011 Marketing Plan. Sign up here.