So much is being written about the benefits of business networking sites such as LinkedIn that we sometimes forget just how effective & enjoyable real, live, face to face networking can be.
Yes, I said enjoyable.
People are often nervous about attending networking events, but feel obliged to attend as it might be ‘good for business’. There is no doubt that networking benefits business and, if you are not convinced, here are a couple of articles you might find interesting.
Benefits of business networking – Ezine article
Practical advice for business – Businesslink
So, how do you overcome the feeling of dread that so many people feel when they enter a crowded room? Here are a few basic tips:
- Remember people are here to network, and want to make new connections. They actually want to talk to you!
- Don’t dive straight into what your business does. Start with a bit of gentle conversation; you are sure to find some common ground that will help you to relate to someone. Chat about holidays, films, books, even the weather (works well in Scotland, and even in California!). You can start to talk a bit about what you do later.
- Networking events are not the place for detailed business conversations, so don’t worry about telling your new contacts everything that you can do. If there is common ground, then make sure you exchange cards and follow up later.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol – just don’t!! You might think it gives you confidence, but it can make you memorable for all the wrong reasons.
- How to join a group – this is something I learnt from a voicebusiness presentation, and it really works (thanks Cordelia & Ruth)!! Look for a group of 3, and stand directly in front of the middle person. Not too close, but close enough for them to see you. They will notice you, and make eye contact, but they may be in the middle of a conversation so just wait a little longer. Keep standing there, and don’t feel self conscious, they will look at you again quite soon (though it might seem like an age to you). This is your opportunity; either they will ask you to join them, or you can ask them if you can join them.
So take the plunge and start networking! It may take a while before your business will benefit, but it surely will. And in the meantime, maybe you will have found out about a great new holiday destination, or a good local retaurant.