Many people cringe when they hear the word “Networking”. It can feel unnatural, stressful and overwhelming. I’m here today to share my story and tips on how to make networking a positive experience that can grow your business, enhance your communication skills and even lead to new friendships.
I began attending networking events in 2011. To date, I have attended at least 500 events, met hundreds of great people and have learned a lot about every aspect of networking. Late last year, I began to notice that I was spending more time meeting new people than I was cultivating relationships with people already in my network. I wanted to make sure that networking for me was more about quality than quantity.
At the beginning of this year, I made a conscious decision to only attend events I was excited about. I am now picking and choosing my events wisely, rather than just filling up my calendar every single night of the week. I consider the price, but more importantly I attend events related to causes that mean something to me (Annual Heart Walk by the American Heart Association and events focused on increasing walkability). Plus I do my best to be present at events that support my friends in their endeavors.
Here are some tips I have learned that I believe you will find helpful as you venture out into the networking world:
- Establish your own dress style- This is kind of like having your own uniform. It makes you more recognizable. I have cultivated my uniform much like Steve Jobs (RIP) who always wore a black turtleneck and jeans. My style of clothing makes me feel confident, maintain modesty and comfortable. You will always find me in a dress with a blazer, a Tumi backpack that turns into a briefcase and ankle boots. I rarely wear heels because I will be more likely to sit for longer periods and wearing uncomfortable shoes can lead to spinal injuries, muscle spasms, and even chronic headaches. The advantage, comfortable shoes means I’m prepared to take a walking meeting at any time!
- Make your business cards memorable- When receiving someone’s card, write where you met and a key takeaway from your conversation on the back. You will more likely receive a response when you follow up because you can reference what you chatted about.
- Always carry a Sharpie pen– Sharpies make it much easier to write on someone’s business card especially if the card is glossy or has another texture. You also never know when someone will ask you to bust out a Sharpie, you can be the hero by having one.
- Stay hydrated and energized with healthy food- I carry portables snacks and drink water before heading out to keep my energy up before and during an event. I also try not to eat or drink anything that isn’t worth the calories solely because it’s free. Free food doesn’t mean free of calories. Our friend Marketing Melodie gave insight about this in her post about 3 healthy things you can do during a conference. Read more about it here.
- Smile- You will look much more approachable and boost your own mood, plus the mood of others who see you. Smiling can also help pump up your immune system and lower stress.
- Be a resource to your network- When people know that you can help them with a problem, then they see you as someone who wants them to succeed by either helping directly or referring them to people who can help them. When meeting new people, rather than spewing out all the services you offer, ask questions to let others know you want to be a resource. Here you will find some suggestions:
- How can I help you with something?
- Who is your ideal client?
- What is your primary product or service offering?
- Be strategic with your follow up– Always ask someone the best way to reach them (social media, walking meeting, phone or email) and the time of day if it’s a phone or Skype call. Include a reminder of how you met and something you discussed. This makes your follow up easier because your new connection expects to hear from you, your message is personal and it’s on their terms so you won’t be seen as interruptive.
Let me know if you use or plan to use any of these networking tips, and feel free to share your own tips in the comments.
until we netwalk again®