Networking is something we all love to hate. Very few people are blessed with the innate ability to walk into a room and operate without fear or second-guessing themselves. For many, the very idea of forced interactions are a deterrent altogether.
Whether networking is a special event or a weekly occurrence for you, it can take a lot of effort to attend.
Events are most often held on weekday evenings, somewhere central in your nearest city, and the temptation can be strong to find excuses not to go. If childcare is a factor, or the shifts of your significant other, giving-up precious time together is challenging.
Yet when you’ve actually made the effort to attend an event, what happens when it doesn’t go the way you wanted?
It’s easy to sit and think positively about any business-related event you attended. Human nature dictates we want to find the good in all situations, especially when they’re related so closely to that which we hold most dear.
But there are positives to take from what might potentially be a negative experience.
The event begins in your mind, before you set foot in the room. If you set a big target for the number of hot leads you get from the evening, or business cards you collect, there’s room for disappointment.
Instead, be open to the idea that while no new clients might be found that night, having interactions without the pressure of selling can be liberating and enjoyable.
Be bold enough to steer the conversation towards a topic you are comfortable discussing. The fundamentals of business transcend industry, so don’t think your experiences are isolated to just your business sector.
Talk honestly about your experiences. Chances are, you may never see the other people again and so there are no expectations put upon you. It is a powerful ability to have, if you can leave people feeling as though they’ve had a genuine, open, human interaction.
People buy from people. It’s an emotional decision as much as a financial one, so using networking as means to practice your professional engagement skills can only be beneficial.
Ultimately, any networking event is a chance to present yourself to a room full of strangers in exactly the way you would hope potential customers see your business.
Do not be afraid to be bold, in the same way you’d hope for your company to stand out in your industry sector. If you speak with authority and confidence in your professional knowledge, it is at least excellent practice for future events.
If you are still hesitant about attending a networking event, think of all the other business related advantages networking can offer;
1. Social Content
Networking events are great for bulking out your social media content - take pictures of the venue, the people you meet or even just the ticket for the event. Your digital audience want to know what you are up to.
Whether you enjoyed a networking event or not, there is always an angle you can discuss in the form of a blog. For small businesses, blog content can be difficult to come up with on a regular basis. On your way home note down a few thoughts about the event; what you liked, what you didn't like etc. Share your networking event reviews on social media and tag the organisers and the people you met for guaranteed shares.
3. Linkedin Connections
If digital marketing relies on having an audience, why not turn your networking efforts in to a way to grow one. Add everyone you meet to LinkedIn - even if you don't think they will ever be a customer - they might know someone who will be.
4. Email Marketing
When you leave an event with a handful of business cards, what do you do with them? Most of us sort them in to various piles and contact the hottest leads, the rest of the cards go in the bin. Whether they buy from you or not, every person who has handed you a business card has given you permission to contact them. Pop all those new contacts on to your email marketing list.
5. Other Events
It is much easier to attend a networking event with someone you know. If you have a positive interaction with a business owner, ask them about the other events they attend, follow up letting them know of future events you will be attending, and find out if they're going. It will be much easier going to the next event if you know people who are going to be there.
So, those are our 5 tips on how you can make networking work for you, even if you don't have the confidence right now to get in there and own the room.