Some people believe networking is only important when you’re searching for a job – think again. Networking is important to your success, period.
Perhaps you’re looking for more in your life, or you have interests you could pursue, but don’t know where to start… Start with Networking!
When you can master networking effectively, it can expose you to a world of new opportunities.
Thanks to networking, I was able to create and build the Venus Awards and partner with some amazing sponsors, people I had met through different networking events. The Venus Awards have now been coined by Channel 4 as the working women’s Oscars, and has recognized thousands of women across the country.
For some of you, just the thought of going to a networking event makes you anxious. You may feel that you don’t have the confidence or the know-how to network, and you would much rather stay at home in your comfy jumper and watch Netflix!
I still remember my first networking event and how scary it was. Looking back, it seems silly now. I can tell you that over the years, it has become a SASSy cinch!
If you’re an introvert, networking can be very draining. We often hesitate to network, or go to networking events, because we fear we will be judged, not know what to say when meeting new people and want to avoid those awkward lulls in conversation.
But, if you prepare properly and figure out what you want to achieve from the particular event, you’ll set yourself up for success, meet some amazing people, and open the door to unlimited opportunities!
In this blog I’m going to share my top 7 tips to improve your networking SASS, so you can start connecting with some great people and build up the confidence to master your next networking event.
Get Ready To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone
For many people, the thought of mingling in a room of strangers makes them feel uncomfortable, and they’ll find any opportunity to get engrossed in a text exchange on their phone, rather than striking up a conversation with a complete stranger.
But when you’re at a networking event, it’s time to make some real face-to-face connections. Now’s the time to be a livelier, more confident version of yourself. Put on a determined smile and dive right in.
Going in with a plan and being prepared, will help to ease your anxiety. You may be surprised at how easy it actually is!
7 Tips To Better Networking:
Tip #1 – Wear Something Memorable
Wear something that is memorable, something that will make you stand out from the crowd.
Dress codes may vary from one networking event to another, but you can have a little fun with your clothes and put some personality into your outfit. Your choices on what to wear can become your brand so you’re easily recognizable.
It’s good to be fashion-forward but also important to wear something that is flattering and is aligned with what you do.
I like to wear my favourite colour, RED. It’s not only a way of standing out, red is also more flattering on me, and it aligns with my brand.
A few years ago I had my colours done, before that I would always wear black because it was easy and matched everything.
Finding out your WOW colours and wearing the right colours for you makes you feel better and more confident. Plus, you no longer waste money on shades that don’t suit you and only end up clogging up your wardrobe!
Tip #2 – Starting a Conversation
If you’re able to, get a list of attendees in advance. Go through the list making sure you not only highlight the ones you want to talk to, but also put a star beside the most important ones you want to connect with. Make specific notes on why these attendees might be valuable contacts.
Also, most importantly, make sure to consider how YOU might be able to help them, or add value to what they do!
Don’t be averse to speaking with people not on your list. I like to strike up conversations with all people in the room, you never know what will come of it. Keep in mind,it’s not just about the people in the room, it’s about the people they know too.
Tip #3 – Starting A Conversation
The key is to ask open-ended questions – ones that do not require a yes or no answer – to engage the person you’re meeting and get them to talk about themselves first.
You must learn how you can be of help to each person you connect with, and the objective of your conversations should focus on identifying how you can help them specifically. Something as simple as offering to make a helpful introduction goes a long way towards making a positive impression, and will often lead to building a long-term relationship
It’s really good to establish common ground, whether it’s professional, social or through shared experience.
Not sure what questions to ask? Here are some great open-ended questions to engage people at networking events:
- How did you get started in what you do?
- What do you do when you’re not working?
- What’s the most exciting thing you’re working on at the moment?
I’ve created a FREE downloadable CHEAT SHEET of these questions – and more!
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11 great conversation starters for your networking events in 2020
Tip #4 – Make Your Conversations Personal
This is a bit of a continuation of tip #3, but it’s worth some extra attention because connecting with a new contact, on a personal level, is one of the quickest ways to build trust. And trust is crucial in getting people to want to work with you, or to recommend you.
Some great ice-breaker topics are things like hobbies, children, holiday destinations – anything non-business related. This often softens and relaxes people and makes them feel you’re actually getting to know each other and building a relationship.
Tip #5 – Business Cards
You’ll be interacting with a lot of people at a networking event. And remember from tip #2, you’ve done your homework ahead of time, and you have a list of people you want to connect with and reach out to.
Remember to have current and up-to-date business cards on you, to give to them.
While it is becoming more common to not to have business cards, I believe there are still many people out there that are using and appreciate a good business card. It hangs around as a visual reminder of your interaction, more so than perhaps just connecting on LinkedIn.
Your business cards should say what you do, not just your contact information. And this is where you can get creative and have a little fun with it. For example, instead of having your card say Accountant, perhaps have it say something more like: “helping put more money in your purse”.
I like to put my picture on my business card as well. I think it’s a nice idea and it helps people remember who you are, especially if you follow the idea of choosing a personal style or colour that makes you stand out.
Tip #6 – Create Codes for Business Cards Collected
Creating codes will help you remember who you’ve met, and which new relationships you want to develop further.
When you collect a business card from someone, write a simple code on the card so after the event it will trigger your memory of the conversation, and you’ll remember what action step you wanted to take with that particular person.
By taking the time to do this extra step, you’ll feel confident when following up with them.
Some of the codes I like to use are:
- E4R – email for referral
- C4S – call for sponsorship
- C4C – call for chat
If I have a couple of networking events on the same day, I make sure to have an envelope that I put the card in with the networking event written on the outside and the date.
I also have an app where I can take a picture of the card and upload it directly to my CRM. You may still want to keep hold of the card, again as a visual reminder to go back onto the CRM and follow up.
Tip #7 – LinkedIn Profile
As mentioned earlier, some people today are only using their LinkedIn profile as their modern-day business card. LinkedIn has a scan and connect option however, the downfall with this is there is no note opportunity.
If you are going to use this method rather than a business card, make sure to send your new contact a message right away, or if you’re not able to do that, use the notes app on your phone. You can use the same code system, so you remember how you wanted to follow up with that particular new contact.
Before you begin any networking, take a look at your LinkedIn profile: Is it up to date? Is it compelling? Does it indicate how you can help people rather than just your profession?
It’s so important to have this up-to-date and impactful because your LinkedIn profile is one of the first places people will go after meeting you.
The above tips have been some guidelines on what you can do at a networking event. My bonus tip is what you need to AVOID that will most likely get in your way of creating successful connections is:
Avoid hanging out all the time with the people you know!
If you are going to an event with people you know, try to split up during the networking. If it’s a seated event, try to avoid sitting with the people you know.
Spending the time talking with people you already know is easy and comfortable, but it may get in the way of you meeting new contacts, making new connections and achieving your goals. Remember, this is the reason you are going to the event in the first place!
You can do anything you set your mind to – but it takes action, perseverance, confidence, and the will to face your fears.
Choose to enjoy networking! Book your next networking event and get ready to SASS it up!!
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