Networking – just the word used to make me come out in a sweat and a dark cloud would descend. Don’t get me wrong I'm not an introvert, and I can talk (even in my sleep!) I have presented in front of 500 people before but for some reason, the thought of having to engage and force people to speak to me fills me with dread. I would do anything to avoid it, even scheduling a dentist appointment and when I do find myself attending I would arrive right at the last minute, decide it was necessary to check out the toilets several times over and leave early with some lame excuse.

Now I’m not saying it’s my idea of a perfect day, but I’ve put my big girl pants on and can say I am getting more comfortable with this networking thing and in fact I now average about 2 networking opportunities a month and instead of it being outside my comfort zone it's now on the peripheral!

So what’s changed I hear you say…… I’ve decided to think differently about it and here is how.

Step away from the crowded room. When we think networking we imagine this cold hotel room, with the token buffet and lots of people mingling around. STOP! Networking in its true sense is about meeting new people who could be potential clients or connect you to potential clients. How you meet these people is up to you. It could be online, a one on one discussion, networking is not limited to organised events. Think about activities you like doing where your potential clients could be or join a group where you have a common interest providing you with your opening intro. Maybe you have met someone that intrigues you and you believe could be a good connection, why not invite them out for coffee. Think about it as an opportunity to get to know someone new as opposed to a networking meeting.

Have a conversation. You are at your networking opportunity and now you need to sell. FALSE! Ultimately you may want this person to become your next client or refer 5 people to you, but before then you need to build that rapport and make a connection. Show interest in your person, find out about their story, what issues they are facing. If you engage and show interest in someone then they will find interest in you.

Be vulnerable. You have a whole world of potential customers, but in order for them to benefit from your service or product, you have to let them know what you do. For example, my mission is to help people be their happiest self, yet if they don’t know what I do, how can they ask me for help.

Become the connector. As you engage in conversation and get to know someone on a deeper level ask them what they need, what they are working on, you may have something that you can share with them, a document, piece of advice or a contact. People love to help people and if you show this commitment, they will remember you and think of you next time they need your services.

And if you are stepping into that cold hotel room full of people, here are my top 4 survival tips:

  1. Do your research If you know someone who has been to one of these events before, ask them for the low down, what the format is like.
  2. Prepare – Have a couple of questions in your back pocket that you can use to find out about each person you engage.
  3. Take someone with you – Maybe you have an existing client or a supplier that you think would benefit from the event also. This enables you to deepen your relationship with them and have an ally.
  4. Get involvedTake an active role at the event. If you are the meeter/greeter, people will approach you and you automatically have an initial conversation lined up.

What has worked for you when it comes to networking share here. Know someone who hates network? Why not send them this blog.

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