Build a better business by networking more!
I was so nervous...
Even though I had networked many times before, and been a Toastmaster for years, I bombed my first online networking event.
I thought I was prepared but I wasn't in the slightest (yeah I didn't follow proper speech protocol of preparation and practice.) I thought I could wing it but I failed.
To be fair, I am being incredibly hard on myself here (we are our own worst critics.) True, it could have been better prepared and polished but overall I did ok.
Whether in person or now online, you know networking is a vital aspect of building a successful career, business, or personal brand.
Making genuine connections with others opens up access to opportunities, find mentors, gain new clients, or simply make friends.
However, if you are like me (a socially functioning introvert who has to really prepare to engage with others), networking is intimidating. You may also not be familiar with the process, particularly the newer online networking meet-ups.
Here are some tips I needed when I was preparing to network as a newly proclaimed virtual assistant.
1. Set clear goals: Before you start networking, it’s important to set clear goals for what you want to achieve. Are you looking for new clients or job opportunities? Do you want to learn from industry experts or connect with like-minded individuals? Knowing your goals will help you identify the right events and contacts to pursue, and make the most of your time and energy.
2. Prepare your "elevator pitch": Create a concise and memorable introduction of yourself, which should convey your unique value proposition and capture people’s attention. Practice your pitch and make it sound natural, so you can confidently share it at events or in meetings.
One of my "pitches" is also my LinkedIn tagline "I get to be an entrepreneur's extra set of hands in the completion of their admin tasks, freeing them to live the life they desire!" This was a collaborative creation with one of my networking connections Suzy Simonson. She has a great workshop on how to create your pitch using what she calls "Attraction Networking".
To build longer pitches, use the following questions.
-What is your business?
-What value does your business bring to society?
-Who is your target audience?
-How do I connect with you?
3. Attend relevant events: Look for events and meetups in your industry or on topics of interest. This can be a great way to meet new people and expand your network. However, don’t just attend events randomly; research the attendees and the topics beforehand, and select events that align with your goals.
If you are getting started with online networking check out The Happy Neighborhood Project. It is free and there are many events not just in North America but in Europe and Australia. So many potential connections.
4. Be social media savvy: Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook can be powerful tools for networking. Make sure your profiles are up-to-date and professional, and actively engage with others in your industry by sharing content, commenting on posts, and reaching out to people.
5. Make genuine connections: Networking is about building relationships, not just collecting business cards. Take the time to get to know people, learn about their interests and ask questions. Be genuine and show interest in what others have to say. Don’t be too pushy or aggressive; respect people’s time and boundaries.
6. Follow up: After meeting someone, follow up with them to continue the conversation and build the relationship. Send a message, connect on social media, or suggest a coffee or lunch. Remember to be specific about why you want to follow up and what you hope to achieve.
7. Offer help: Networking is a two-way street. Look for ways to add value to the people you meet, for example by sharing relevant articles, making introductions, or offering your expertise. By being helpful, you can build trust and strengthen your relationships. If you saw my newsletter two issues back you will remember the fantastic book I recommended called The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann which is all about this very point.
8. Be consistent: Networking is a long-term game. Don’t expect immediate results, but stay consistent and committed to building your network over time. Continuously attend events, reach out to people, and stay top of mind by sharing relevant content and keeping in touch.
One way to stay top of mind is by inviting them (at an appropriate time) to subscribe to an e-newsletter (wink, wink), YouTube channel, podcast, or workshop. When we engage with people we build that consistent connection.
Had I followed the above tips I sure wouldn't have "failed" at my first online networking event. After many events, I have met many people some of whom are now clients. Go out and have fun, be genuine, helpful, and committed, and you’ll see the results over time.