A year or two ago the thought of heading to an unfamiliar venue to meet anyone I didn’t previously know would have absolutely terrified me, but I feel like every time I go somewhere new and make new connections, it gets easier.
Networking is such a big part of life and it may have attracted some bad PR over the years, but – at the end of the day – it’s the way to meet new people, grow your business, get a job, and even make new friends.
It’s kind of how our entire society functions and women, in particular, have a natural flair for it. So why not embrace it and do it like a boss!?
1 – Work To Your Strengths
I’m an introvert and I work better one-on-one – this doesn’t necessarily work in a big social environment. It sometimes means that I spend the whole night talking to one person because I tend to get quiet in big groups. What I realise from this is that I can create deeper connections with the few people I speak with and this works with my personality.
Extroverts may be able to get a lot of business cards or numbers and thrive off working a big group and that will energise them.
Know yourself and be aware of what works for you!
The good thing is that everyone is different so while you might be sitting in the corner talking to one person, there will be five extroverts who will bound on over and introduce themselves and join your conversation. Aren’t people great?!
2 – Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Having said that, try and challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone. If you can, set yourself intentions before heading to an event or social gathering – even just something small.
This might mean speaking to three total strangers. It might be approaching someone you admire or look up to, or pitching an idea to someone in person. For me, I have set a goal to hand out my 250 new business cards by the end of the year.
Every time you challenge yourself to do something slightly uncomfortable, you will find it easier the next time and be able to push yourself further and further!
3 – It’s Not About You
I used to HATE trying to think of something to say to strangers. I would freak out that I might say the wrong thing, I’d rehearse questions in my head, I’d worry that someone would talk to me and I wouldn’t know what to say – and I’m talking less than a year ago.
Really though, it is easy. People love to talk about themselves and – if you show genuine interest in hearing what they have to say and be responsive – that is a surefire way to hit it off with someone new.
If you go to an event to talk about yourself, you may find that people aren’t that interested. If you go with an agenda to get new business or make sure everyone knows who you are, you’ve kind of missed the point. Keep in mind that you could meet your new best friend and that will make it easier to connect with anyone you speak to.
4 – It’s a Little Bit About You
This is something I’ve been learning lately. I got really good at focusing on the people I meet that I kind of forgot about myself. When you genuinely listen to people and take an interest in them, you will usually find they will reciprocate.
There is nothing worse than not knowing what to say back. It has taken me a while to be able to define my blog to people when they ask about it. I am on the verge of starting a business and I’m learning how to explain that to people. And I work in an industry that people find pretty interesting, but I sometimes forget that.
If you know yourself and believe in what you do, you will be able to talk about it with ease and confidence. If you have something new to tell people about and you’re excited about it, make sure that you tell them. They will most likely be interested in it, if you are.
5 – Be Time Mindful
Your time is valuable and sometimes staying at an event when you don’t want to is silly, it’s also crazy to cut out when it’s really going off. Sometimes it helps to go in with an idea of when you’ll leave, especially when you’ve got a lot on your plate, but you don’t have to stick to it.
This also goes for when you’re talking to someone. Know when it is appropriate to move on to another conversation. Sometimes this won’t happen because you’ve met your soul mate, but you may also need to learn when to move on to the next person or group. Excuse yourself politely at a natural pause in conversation to move on. Or, take an opportunity to get a drink or go to the bathroom. It’s okay if you are genuine and polite.
6 – Exchange Details
Give out cards, get Twitter handles, swap numbers. There is nothing worse than leaving an event after some great conversations and not having any way to get back in contact with people again. Investing in some cheap Vistaprint business cards can be the easiest thing you’ve done for your blog and business!
Smart phones are also really good for this, you can follow someone on Twitter while they’re still standing right in front of you!
7 – Follow Up
If you say you’ll email someone, do it. If you say you’re keen to work with someone, follow it up. And do it quickly. You might have met 20 people at an event, but everyone else probably did too. Stay in their head and reconnect as soon as possible so you don’t forget them and they can’t forget you.
Add people, follow them, email them, check out their site when you get home. It will probably take 15 minutes at the end of the night and it could mean a lot to your business in the long run by putting in a tiny bit of work in.
It’s also a great idea to thank the event host via a social site because people love to know their event was a hit and it also allows anyone who didn’t get your details to find you easily.
What are you waiting for?!
Now, come on. Get out there!
Let me know which tip you’re going to try at the next event you attend by commenting below. Or, better still, share one of your tips!
If you LIKE IT, please SHARE IT. You might be able to help someone step out of their comfort zone just by hitting on of those little social buttons below.
Great post Katherine. I love your idea to set little (or big goals) like handing out a certain number of business cards in a year or speaking with a certain number of people at each event so you can keep stretching yourself out of your comfort zone bit by bit. Thanks for sharing these great tips. 🙂