As business owners and entrepreneurs you’ll need to embrace networking, I highlighted 10 escape routes out of the 9-5 in my recent article on how to start a profitable business from home. So whether you want to consultant, freelance, or create online courses, networking will help you get the word out.
Networking can feel a bit daunting for many, the idea of walking up to strangers at an event to spark up a conversation may fill the average person with panic, anxiety and clammy hands. For some, networking comes naturally, but if it doesn’t here are some tips to help you along your way.
Breathe – Take a deep breath and relax. Remember if you’re at a networking event, that everyone present is there for the exact the same reason as you, to network and make connections. Try doing some deep breathing exercises, where you breath in on the count of four, hold for the count of four and slowly release your breathe for the count of four. It helps to calm you down.
Attending events – There are events for literally every industry, be it tradeshows, meet up events, conferences, breakfast seminars, lunch events, they all provide great networking opportunities. Make sure you are researching and attending relevant events to make new contacts.
Online interaction – Don’t forget there are plenty of opportunities to network online via social platforms, like LinkedIn and Facebook where you can find various groups to engage with. As well as Instagram and twitter where you can participate in Tweet chats, such as ‘#Bizhour’ that provide an opportunity to network with others from various locations around the world.
Be visible – There’s no point going to network and then hiding in the corner, let your presence be known, go and introduce yourself and don’t forget to bring your business cards. If you forget them, why not add your new contacts on LinkedIn –the professional networking platform.
Be yourself – Don’t feel the need to put on false pretences or inflate the truth in order to impress others, we are all at different stages in our life journey. Yes, you’ll want to make a good impression, but you can do that by being your true authentic self, there is only one you after all.
Listen attentively – Networking allows you to tell others what you are doing and about work you have planned coming up but be aware of not going on and on about yourself. You don’t want to take over the conversation, it’s important to listen attentively to those you engage and interact with, whether online or offline.
Be confident and thoughtful – Networking takes some confidence, you have to belief in yourself and your expertise. Sell yourself and your skills, but also be helpful. If you meet someone that isn’t looking for your service, but you happen to know someone else who can help them, why not connect them. It’s good to help others and leaves a good impression. What goes around comes around, helping others to connect will help you in the long run. It’s nice to be nice.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions – We often over think things, we may have a question or want an introduction, some advice, whatever it is ask. Nothing ventured nothing gained so if you don’t ask you won’t get. Ask the burning questions you have, no such thing as stupid question.
Don’t be afraid to circulate – Sometimes you can get into a comfort zone speaking to people that you really connect and gel with. You may have lots in common which great, but remember to keep your eye on the goal, which is to network so be sure to circulate and be polite in making your exit.
Long-term vision – Making new contacts is the point of networking, but more often than not, it’s the long-term relationships that lead to work and business deals being made. Focus on developing mutually beneficial relationships and think long-term. They may not need you now but maybe in the future. Stay in touch and keep it genuine and professional.
Remember to Follow-up
Following up, sounds like an obvious thing to say and do, but you’d be surprised at how quick things can slip our minds, we networking get back home put the new business cards down and get distracted with work. Its super important to follow up with the contacts you’ve made. Instead of putting down the business cards to collect dust, take some time the following day to send an email letting the new contacts know it was great to meet them and to stay in touch. It’s also a good chance for you to remind them of the services you offer and that you are there to help if needed.
Keep your word
If you make a contact and promise to do something for them, be sure to get it done. You don’t want to look flaky and unreliable by not following through with something you specifically told someone you would do. Not a great way to make an impression.
I wrote this for MBA World:
How To Become A Consultant; A Guide To Free Yourself From The 9-5’. Available from Amazon, iBook, Google Play, Barnes & Noble and other online platforms.