As excited as I may be, I am also quite nervous; the thought of walking up to an actual stranger and saying hello is actually scary and sometimes I chicken out. What if I say the wrong thing? What if they aren’t interested in meeting me or don’t listen to me? These are the questions that run through my mind and even prevent me from taking the first step.
Then one day I asked myself, what’s the worst thing that could happen, even if my worst fears were realized? So I decided to take the bull by the horns and started making deliberate effort to harness my networking skills. And here are some of the tips I have picked up along the way:
What do you do? You probably know what you do already, but one of the things you need to get clear about is how to carefully and explicitly communicate this to the people you will be meeting. It is one thing to know what you do, it is another to carefully and clearly express it.
2. Who will I be meeting? you also need to have an idea of the kind of people you are likely to meet. For instance, if you are going for a fashion event; who are the people that are likely to be there? Are there certain people you would love to speak with at the event? If you have identified these people, then you need to research about them and look for common ground.
3. What will you say? when you have found common ground, then you need to think about things you would say. For instance, you need to think about the angle you would like to start the conversations from, that will be appealing or interesting to the listener. You can start by sincerely appreciating some of the things they do that you really like, and that is relevant to what you do. And after appreciating it, you can talk about yourself and how what they do impacts or affects what you do, or how they relate to each other.
4. What value are you adding? Don’t get into the trap of talking only about yourself. For instance, if you want to pitch your business to someone, don’t think only about ‘you and you’ alone. Think also about the people you are speaking too. Instead of focusing on what you do alone, try talking more about how you can help add value to what they already do.
5. Prepare: preparation is key, especially if you are shy or new to networking. Try and go over what you would say? You could try practicing with a friend or in front of the mirror before the event.
6. Step up your confidence: without some level of confidence, you won’t be able to walk up to somebody to pitch your business to them or tell them about yourself. Believe in what you do and in your personal value and potential.
7. Smile: smiling makes you seem approachable and friendly. It makes people warm up to you and feel comfortable talking to you. Never underestimate the importance of being approachable at an event.
8. Have your business card handy: you business card is something that immediately tells a person you are serious about your business and you are intentional. You can even get yourself a digital business card if you don’t have a physical business card yet, but make sure you collect the required details of the people you meet and send it to them immediately after the event.
9. Remember their names: remember people’s names, call them by their names; it makes conversations easier and it shows that you are attentive and you care about the other person.
10. There are two options: remember, there are two options: it is either the person doesn’t give you the kind of response you’d like, or the opposite happens. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If the conversation doesn’t go as planned, don’t beat yourself up, keep trying to connect with other people.
11. Follow-up: you can research, prepare, talk to the person and all that, but if you don’t follow-up, there is really no point or need for all you have done. And so, follow-up; do you need to call the person when you leave? Do you need to send an email? Etc.