In the new digital era you can connect with people instantly via social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. So why are networking events still so important for business? After attending my first Girl Tribe Gang networking event this week, here are some of my thoughts. (The Bucks Girl Tribe Gang opening night was held at No.5 London End in Beaconsfield on Wednesday 1st November, 2017)
Do I REALLY have to attend that networking event?
The thought of attending networking events always stirs up resistance internally. Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting new people and talking to like-minded individuals. I just struggle with the thought of having to ‘sell’ and put myself out there. I think this resistance is a common thing, because when I got chatting to other #GirlBosses at the Girl Tribe event they shared similar fears about the networking process. After my first nose dive back into the world of networking, I can safely say that the experience has been positive and eye-opening. It’s helped me rediscover my love of what I do, refreshed my perspective and I returned to the office this week feeling more determined than ever. I also got to meet some lovely local people that I can’t wait to connect with and meet again in the future.
In summary, networking is not what you think it is and you shouldn’t fear it. Some good advice, and a little preparation before-hand, will help you get there feeling clear on why you’re going and boost your confidence. Here are some of our top tips to help you prepare for your next networking event:
How to prepare for a networking event
- Number one on the preparation list is do your research! Try to find out about the companies visiting, what they do and who is who. Social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram can be a great way to do this.
- Remember your business cards and take plenty of them with you. It’s easy to assume that people can simply look you up on LinkedIn, but nothing beats a high-quality, well-branded set of business cards. Easy to find, easy to pass on to a possible referee and much more memorable than any LinkedIn profile!
- Prepare your elevator pitch and make it memorable. An elevator pitch is a short, sharp summary that describes your business and gives people a good outline of the benefits of working with you. Try to keep it to 30 seconds and practice before-hand to make sure you feel super-confident telling others what you do
- Think about the kinds of people you would like to meet at the networking event. Which businesses could you learn something from, and who do you think you could help?
Preparation will help you feel confident attending. It will also ensure sure you don’t miss out on the perfect learning or business opportunity.
How to network at events
- Make a distinct point of arriving early – especially if you’re going to be on your own! It’s tempting to think of just arriving when the room is full, and you know you’ll have someone to talk to, but you can make some of your best contacts by arriving early. It’s also much easier to break the ice with people at the start before they get deep into conversation with people they already know!
- Remember it’s not all about business. You don’t need to keep the conversation focused entirely on work and what you do for business – often you’ll find it’s much easier to connect with people when you talk about and share other things about you and your life such as children, hobbies or your local interests. Ultimately, it’s about people connecting with people, and it’s important to be yourself.
- Use stories to connect, express some of your personality and your passion for your business. Stories are a great tool for communicating. Before you attend, try to think of some interesting stories you could share. Perhaps you have an interesting story about how you got into business, why you are doing what you are currently doing, or a funny story about your family. Stories are memorable and will help your personality and values stand out in crowded room.
How to learn and grow your business through networking
- Don’t focus on selling. It takes time to master the art networking, many skills are necessary to be successful – talking, listening, sharing and collaborating are all essential. Yet, so many business owners still attend networking purely to sell what they do. The true power of networking for your business lies in the spirit of sharing and collaborating. Ultimately, people still buy from people and they need to be people they can trust. You need be known, liked and trusted before people will do business with you, or refer you to their contacts.
- Ask yourself: how can I help? Try to think about how you could help other businesses get their names out there and help them grow. Getting to know someone via networking, who is being friendly and sociable rather than going in for the hard sell, is a very positive and rewarding way to do business. It’s the way we like to do things at Wonky!
- Focus on organic growth. Networking is still one of the most powerful strategies available right now for getting your name out there in the right circles and, ultimately, helping you grow your business. Remember to approach networking with patience and in the spirit of collaboration and sharing. Over time you will build confidence, learn why people buy from you, and grow your business organically through a trusting referral relationship with your networking community.
That’s it, our top tips on how to prepare, learn and grow from your next networking event. We hope you’ll find them useful!
Thanks to everyone we met and connected with at Girl Tribe Gang in Bucks. We can’t wait for the next chance to meet, share and collaborate with all you passionate #GirlBosses in Bucks.
If we can help you or someone you know with new businesses cards, a website or just some helpful advice about using marketing to grow a business, we’d love to talk! firstname.lastname@example.org www.thewonkyagency.com