As we prepare for our first Magnolia Marketing Group event this Thursday, today we're talking about networking!
Networking can be extremely beneficial for small business owners. Building relationships and connections introduces you to people that could become potential customers or clients, collaborators, or colleagues! And as wonderful as the internet and social media can be at connecting people, building real-life relationships is vital to growth and community involvement, and authenticity.
But, sometimes networking can be hard! It can be awkward to talk a lot about yourself and your business, especially if you're not used to doing it on a regular basis. So today we've listed a few ways to make networking easier and also how to make networking work for you and benefit your business.
Go to Events!
Practice makes perfect, and the more networking events you go to, the better you'll get at networking! The more you start speaking with people about your business and what you do, the more comfortable you will get with it, and the more natural it will come.
Research the Event and the Attendees
Who else is attending the event? Are there exhibitors? Sponsors? Who's hosting the event? If you do a bit of research before the event, you can determine potential contacts potential connections to make at the event. You can learn about their positions or what their companies do, and then use the information to establish common ground and topics for conversation during the event.
Set Realistic Goals
If it's your first networking event and you make 1 or 2 connections, that's success! No need to try to meet every single person in the room (unless you want to!), but just make a goal of establishing a few conversations with new contacts at every event.
Practice Your Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch, or a quick, succinct introduction of who you are and what you do, is a must for networking. Practice describing what you do in a 1-2 sentence to-the-point statement. Keep it short and sweet, and follow it up with a question for the other person about what they do. Keep it clear, casual, and conversational.
Don't Forget Your Business Cards!
You'll probably meet a lot of people at the events, and you'll probably forget all their names! Even in our more and more digital world, people still use business cards! Remember to bring yours so that the folks you meet won't forget your name!
Ask Questions and Listen
It is easy to start talking a lot when you get nervous, but the best thing to do at networking events is listen! People love to talk about themselves, so ask questions. Perhaps even prepare a list of go-to questions to ask new connections. Then listen! Find commonalities to build conversation on. If you work in similar industries, learn ways to potentially work together in the future. And then when you do speak, be memorable! Tell stories and even be vulnerable! Mention that this is your first event and how awkward you feel, and no doubt someone will start to talk about how awkward they feel too! And instant rapport in born.
Even if you're not, act confident! Get off your phone, smile big, stand up straight, and offer a confident handshake. If you're nervous, hold something. Keep a drink or a pen in your hand.
Bring a Friend
An easy way to diffuse an awkward situation of having to talk to a big room of strangers is bringing someone you know! A friend or a co-worker can not only make you feel a bit more comfortable, but you can divide and conquer and cover more ground and make more connections!
Make Your Intention be Connecting, not Selling
The networking event is meant to connect people not to sell people! It's not the time for the "sales pitch" or the "...you can help me by..." conversation. Listen, follow up later by sending an email or connecting on LinkedIn, and then maybe schedule a coffee or lunch meeting to chat about a collaboration.
Networking can be tedious, but it can also be fun. Keep it casual and be yourself. Network up, down, and sideways by talking to all kinds of different people at the event. And you just never know who you may meet and end up working with in the future!