As founder of The BWN, I know first hand how scary networking can be and I too struggled years ago to make any money from networking. I remember when I trained as a coach nearly 20 years ago that I thought “I will never be able to network!” Actually I also thought I’d never speak on a stage, feature in a newspaper or be interviewed on the radio! So it just goes to show that we can all overcome the limits we place on ourselves! An Insider reached out and asked for help with networking. They need to network predominantly in the city and globally. This guide is inlight of this. Whether you are networking online, at your local golf course or at a big global event these strategies will give you exceptional results.
You are given the opportunity to be in the room with the perfect people for your business or career. You can’t quite believe the opportunity that’s landed in your lap. Except now that the excitement has worn off you are left with dread and fear;
- What do I talk about?
- What should I do?
- Do I need to take anything?
- How will I get the most out of this opportunity?
- I have zero confidence; how do I cope when I’m so shy!
- What will they want me to do?
Before you network, what do you look like online? If someone likes what you have to say at the event, it’s highly likely they will look you up;
- LinkedIn is a given place for everyone to have a polished profile that outlines why you are there, what you can deliver, and what opportunities you are looking for.
- Your picture needs to match up to you. Not the version of who you would like to be. It’s a good idea to get a professional shot taken for LinkedIn and at the least ask what your profile picture says about you?
- Remember the banner at the top of the page is prime real estate so make it look good. Use Canva to make something and don’t by shy about saying what you want or altering if it doesn’t get you connected. Click here to use Canva.
- Consider what you want people to know and do from looking at your profile? Where do you want people to end up? On a website? Giving you a call? Looking out for opportunities for you?
- Don’t dismiss Instagram/Twitter/Facebook – Drunk at that party? Moaning about the cost of living? What does that say about you? It could be that this is not relevant or not of a concern in your profession, however I know someone who lost out on a lucrative investment because they were “wearing a sports coat and clearly didn’t take business seriously” That may be an outdated view, however if in your profession you are faced with limited beliefs or perceptions how far out of the norm do you want to be? Is yours an industry that welcomes disruption or runs away from it?
Before you go;
What are your goals?
When I deliver training for teams on networking skills I tell them “You’re not selling Ferraris for a £1 so it’s doubtful they will be buying on day one” (Although don’t dismiss the ability to get what you want at the first event you attend, you do need to be mindful that networking is a marathon and not a sprint. You are investing in your career and business today and for the future. Get this right and you don’t even need to be in the room for people to be talking about you and recommending you!
- What do you want to be remembered for?
- What outcomes would be ideal?
- Who do you want to meet?
And think big as well as practically – I know someone who was given £1 million towards a project from one networking event and a chat on LinkedIn!Mandie Holgate, best selling author and global coach
Boost your confidence levels – 20 years ago when I had to go out and sell myself as a coach I do not lie when I share that I was petrified. I am self-taught in confidence and so know first-hand you can overcome your lack of confidence. In fact, it is one of my favourite things to teach because of the far-reaching results an improved mindset and internal confidence has on your performance in any situation. Not least in networking.
Remember even if you think you’ve gone red or talking gibberish, it’s highly unlikely anyone else is thinking that – often they are as nervous as you!
Power up before arrival – what music, scent, outfit, route to the event would help you?
Remember past teachings can affect your future success.
If you have had an experience of networking or talking about yourself/business/career that was less than successful this can impede your ability to be effective in the future. Negative experiences in the past can be remembered and stored, so that whenever you are in that environment or situation again your first thought is a negative one and each time, this happens you are reinforcing this. Therefore, be aware of past teachings and whether they are inflicting you with a negative idea of what will happen.
Go knowing what you want to have accomplished when you commute back to the office – don’t think about the event and what would have to happen for that to be the result you get, just consider the outcome you want – more clients, investment, new contract, new job?
Do not take the bad weather, traffic, lousy start to your day into that room. You know that feeling you can get, where you can feel energy in the room even though you’ve only just walked in?
Plan some things to say. I tell clients to watch the news or look up research. Something relevant to the industry or the people likely to be in the room. You don’t want to end up talking about your breakfast cereal because you’re minds gone blank! Practice how you would get that into the conversation (not your breakfast cereal!)
It can be useful to see if it’s possible to ask for an attendance list, look up their association/organisation’s social media accounts. And see who has said they are attending the event.
Ask to connect – don’t leave the message empty, especially on LI – there’s far too much selling at new connections, so write something honest like “I see you are also attending the XXX event, would you be open to connecting? Thank you.”
Sometimes it’s appropriate to make a friend of the organiser. If you are nervous, be honest (with caution) The organisers want to ensure you attend again and say good things about the event, so they will want to help make you comfortable.
Alas I say with caution, because there are still a few dinosaurs who think it’s funny to make jokes at the expense of the newbie who doesn’t know what they are doing. They are thankfully few and far between and are remembered for all the wrong reasons so finding a networking friend should be easy to achieve.
Lastly practice a 60 seconds. A lot of networking is wandering around a room meeting people. Some are far more structured with 10-minute spotlight slots where one person will talk about their business and others have elevator pitches – that is a whole course in itself which you can see here – I can teach you how to deliver a 60 seconds elevator pitch that will connect, open doors and get you business and opportunities. Bringing the power of communication, NLP, Coaching, CBT and many other practices together. Powerful stuff!
Always rehearse a 60 seconds, you may never have networked in your life but still practice something. To shorten the course that teaches everything you could ever need on elevator pitches and networking skills – the mini uber fast version is this;
- Start and finish with your name (and business name) people are as nervous as you so unless you repeat it, there’s a good chance they forget it.
- Don’t be heavy on the we do this, and we do that. Concentrate on who is in the room, what do they want to hear? What needs do they have?
- T.R.U.S.T Taking from my course you can use this simple strategy to create 5 powerful 60 seconds – Talk about something that would a top tip to everyone in the room.
- Share some relevant to the audience that they may benefit from.
- Share some useful to the networkers – this could even be another event/webinar/opportunity that could serve them well. Get known as a giver, not a taker.
- Success – share a success of your career or business. Showcase why you.
- Lastly never dismiss the targeted approach – what do you want people to do. Ask for it!
- As easy as it would be to read from paper the only time you should read from paper is if you are reading a review. A piece of paper creates a psychological barrier, can put people off and has been proven to make you look like you don’t know what you are talking about.
- Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing. Or missing something – only you knew what you had intended to say.
- Steer clear of apologies and “sorry” s – just move on.
It may seem like a silly question however in my extensive experience of coaching teams, it’s the silly questions that hold a lot of the power. So, if you are nervous about what you should wear. Will it be smart casual and what does that even mean after the pandemic? Look up the organisers past events – most events have some element of social media presence, so research their layout, are they standing around, do they have cups in hand (It may seem like the easiest thing in the world, but how do you balance a cup and saucer, get a business card out of your pocket, add someone’s name to your phone and or shake their hand!?!
At the event here’s some tips for the big bit;
Dismiss no one – my favourite version of this is the businessman who swanned into an active conversation, ignoring the fact that people were talking in a group of 6 and gave everyone a business card. As they did this they asked, “What do you do?” When they got to the woman who sold skin care products he said “Oh, I don’t need that” And left. We wanted to keep it polite so moved back to our conversation. Later I got “cornered” by this person again in a similar setting. This person had missed the opportunity of his career – the skincare businesswoman was married to his perfect client – which he would have found out had he been more respectful! So, dismiss no one – treat everyone equally.
If you find yourself on your own, look at the way groups of people are standing. There are 2 types – open groups and closed groups.
A closed group the participants will be stood with their feet, body language and even bags matching. This is not an ideal group to join as they are in deep conversation. If this is your only option politely ask if you may join them. You will soon be able to tell if they are good networkers. Good networkers will welcome you and want you to feel involved.
An open group, you may notice a foot pointing out, an arm and shoulder back leisurely, these are easier groups to join. You are likely to see that their body language alters as you join them.
Don’t monopolise the time of one person – this is also good if you get “cornered” and someone just talks about themselves and don’t seem remotely interested in you and why you are there! Say something along the lines of;
- It has been great to meet you, I really mustn’t monopolise all your time
- It has been great to meet you, may you excuse me for one minute, thank you.
Remember to smile. You may be nervous (or petrified as I used to be!) but smile. Did you know if you smile at yourself, your brain can’t tell the difference and will still set off the feel-good chemicals – so smile.
Don’t go hoping to canvas the room with all your literature and business cards, aim to have 5 decent conversations, where you understand the nature of someone else’s business and what they are looking to find. Remember if you only meet 5 people at a networking event – those 5 people know at least 50 people (at least!) and if you are leaving a lasting impression, they will remember you to all those people. So those 5 can quickly turn into 250 people.
If you are nervous, or are not talking for fear of saying the wrong thing you are the best kind of because you will spend more of your time listening – which means the other person goes away with a lasting impression of some on who was genuinely interested in their business and they will then be more likely to look for you at a future event – because your first impression was a good one, even if they cannot remember the reason why.
Breathe – you may feel like a bunny in headlights but practice standing in the mirror looking and feeling comfortable with a glass of water in your hand – it may sound daft, however remember one of the things athletes do to prepare themselves is relax, shut their eyes and run through every second of a successful jump/game/race/sprint/throw. The brain can’t tell the difference between doing and thinking of the action, so you are moulding your brain to be on side to help you perform – cool right?
Make notes, if you are at an event with 60 people you won’t remember them all. A pen to hand so you can write a note on their business card or a small notebook. It’s worth noting that for some generations having your phone to hand for notes could be perceived as rude so read the room. It’s often easier for men since they can keep their business cards in the left pocket and put the networker’s cards in their right pocket. So for me a skirt with pockets was always a must!
I teach a lot of body language, NLP and communication skills – if you are looking to get people to be interested in you and wanting to stay talking with you, here are a few things you can use;
- 1. Match their tonaly and speed.
- 2. Listen for the style of language they use – people tend to like to use one of these more. Look out for the signs that someone prefers to talk in actions or emotions. Visual, auditory or Kinesthetic? Without overdoing it, because that can look very weird!
Introduce other people so they can come in out of the cold. If you spot someone on their own, you can say something like “Gordon was just telling us about ………what’s your experience of that?”
Not got the best hearing? – stand with your back to a wall or solid surface to lower sound reverberation.
Shy networkers are actually the best. Everyone is there to get heard and get what they want. So, spending your time listening to everyone else makes you popular – at the least you will be remembered as someone who was attentive and a good listener. That’s the building blocks of a good networker – just be mindful there’s a difference to being a good listener and being rail roaded. What questions can you prepare that gives you space to talk?
What questions are good to rehearse to get people talking so you don’t have to?
- Tell me more about that?
- That’s interesting, how does that work then?
- Who will it be good for me to look out for you?
- Who are you looking to meet today?
Before moving on, bring the conversation back to something they said – be remembered as someone who listened and cared.
What about after?
Follow up = a business card is power, so use it – connect on all platforms listed – not on the ones not listed! Remember that some people prefer email and others messages – reply and communicate in the style that suits them. Hubspot has a free version of their CRM and can be a great way to track your networking.
Make sure any promised actions are done in the time frame you promised. Whatever you said you would do whether it’s send a link to a book you mentioned or a link to a business that could help them, do it.
Follow up should not be done after 24 hours – it goes cold fast. If you have to delay, ensure you tell the networker at the event you will be delayed in replying until xxx
Don’t fear getting in touch with someone – be honest;
- “It was great to meet you today, you made some very valid points relating to…”
- “May I ask your view on…”
- May I ask how would I get into that industry?
- What did you find that worked for you?
- Do you know anyone that offers mentoring within that field?
- What would be your approach to xxx?
People like to help other people as long as it’s not onerous and easy to achieve and you ensure you make them comfortable that you’re not expecting a 24 hour turn around.
Be regular -attend more than once. Get seen, get known, get respected, get connected.
I know first hand how scary it can be, but trust me, of all the things you can do for your professional life, few will beat mastering networking!
To learn more, ask me anything or work closer with me, please do not hesitate to contact me. I welcome the chance to help you achieve more. These strategies make a great day for your team to understand how they are part of your brand, reputation and selling machine!
Email me email@example.com