Networking for Dummies

How many times have you went to a business conference or event where you literally felt like you were the only one in the room who just wasn't connecting with anyone? You felt awkward, out of place and totally weren't jiving with a single soul. It's pretty much the worst feeling in the world, right? So how can you avoid that? Do you feel like your networking skills could use a little reboot? Do you even know how to network effectively or are you just throwing yourself out there all willy nilly in the hopes that you'll connect with someone?

There are some items, when it comes to networking, that you should focus on. Whether you're trying to grow your business or your career, find more specific customers, or just build a valuable support network of business people just like you, networking can be crucial!

Throw these things into your bag of tricks and dummy you will no longer be!

1. Find the Right Platform

Ask yourself what your specific goals are when you are participating in a networking event. You want to make sure you are picking the right groups that will get you what you're looking for. Are you looking to learn things? Make contacts? Or are you strictly in it for business connections?

There are a lot of things that inhibit someone's ability to really connect with people at a networking event. And a big one is that they're are simply choosing the wrong events. Some may think the more they attend, the better chance they have of getting what they're looking for. But, if you're selective and pick out the events that really are in your field or are what you are passionate about, you will spend less time finding the right strategic partners!

If you feel you've been attending some events that really didn't get you anywhere, note the tone and attitude that you felt while you were there. Think about why you really think it failed to give you the outcome you were hoping for. Is it really because of you, or were you picking up on cues where the support and vibe just wasn't your thing? Not every group is going to be the group for you!

2. Pitch With Confidence

While nobody wants to really think about having to "pitch" themselves, that's really what networking is all about. Just don't put so much pressure on yourself when you think about meeting new people and keep things fun. After all, you're there to build relationships, not just pitch yourself or your business. The key is to be genuine and authentic. Build trust and these relationships will arrive with clarity! Think about asking open-ended questions that really involves the person you are talking to. It shows listeners that you are really interested in them and opens up the discussion so much more!

Also make sure you have a clear understanding of what you do. I know that may sound super weird, because who doesn't know what they do? But for real. Take a second and make sure you have a stand-by answer for what you do, why, for whom you do it and what makes it so special. You're going to get asked this question a lot, so you might as well make sure your "pitch" is flawless! Share your passion for what you do! And you never know when you might get some referrals in there based on the answer that you had that WOWED someone!

3. Manners, Manners, Manners!

OK ladies… this should be a non-issue, but you have to make sure those manners are in check! And if you're more of an introvert, this may even be more important! While you might be in a good mood and feel 100% pleasant, us introverts tend to make others feel like they can't enter our world because we just stink at letting people in. Networking is not the time to do this!

Make sure you do things as simple as smile! Not only will you put your own nerves at east (fake it 'til you make it!), but you also are going to present yourself as being friendly and approachable. Those are keys in networking!

This one may seem obvious when it comes to manners, but don't be the person that walks in the door 20 minutes after the event started. Get there early! It will still be calm and quiet and you'll be able to scope out people who haven't delved into groups of their own yet.

Also, don't hijack the conversation once you finally warm up to people. Nobody likes the person who ONLY talks about themselves. Be a conversationalist, not just a "talker". 

4. Step Outside of The Box

You want to be seen as a powerful resource for others! Make sure you're positioning yourself to be able to articulate what you are looking for in a networking event and how others can help you! While networking can put some people in the most awkward position possible, don't wait to network until it's too late.

When you're in search of your next job or promotion, that isn't the only time to network. Make sure you're keeping tabs on the people you have met at previous networking events and keep your name out there! Schedule some touch-base conversations with your top networking partners and make sure you're giving suggestions to people on articles or workshops you may see that you know would be of interest to them. Think ahead!

Finally, don't just network with people who are exactly like you. While it can be a comfort to know what the conversations will be like and interests are generally the same, it also insulates us from people and areas of interest that could broaden your horizons and help you make better decisions. Who doesn't want to increase their skill sets?!

5. Follow Up

It can feel awkward to reach out those first few times after a networking event to the people that you did end up exchanging contact information with. But when you start attending the RIGHT events, it's going to be a welcome relief, because these are your people! Contact the individuals who you were most connected to. Find out who may benefit from what you do, and vice versa! Ask to get together and share some ideas. Brainstorm! And offer to pay.

Along that same vein, make sure you follow through quickly and efficiently with any referrals you were given. Your actions are going to reflect big-time on someone who may have given you a referral and will totally be the difference in you gaining or losing some new business! DON'T fall into the trap of being too busy to follow up! And if you happened to connect with dozens of people, at least make an effort to pick out the top 5 that you want to make sure you continue to build a relationship with. Letting it fall to the wayside will ruin the whole point of networking, ladies!

That's all there is to it! Try these tips moving forward at your next networking event and hopefully you're going to feel much more at ease and able to strike up a conversation. We all want to attend events, conferences, and meetings where we know we'll be able to get something out of it and make a few new connections that we didn't have before. Work on mending your ways before one more single potential connection is lost. You can totally do this! You're going to ROCK that room!