How to Network
Every month, we encourage members and non-members alike to attend our monthly networking mixers. More and more people are coming – what used to be about 30 attendees can swell to around 60 – but there are many more who are not coming. Every expert advises business owners to get out there and network to grow their clientele list. So why are they not coming out? Perhaps these business owners don’t have the necessary networking skills. Here are a few pointers, gleaned from blogs and articles.
Andrew Vest of Forbes Magazine claims: “Most people attend networking events to gain something: job leads, referrals, exposure, connections, opportunities to grow their business.” He has seen plenty of people leave disappointed, dismissing networking as a complete waste of time. But he’s witnessed others leave with “a handful of business cards feeling happy, inspired and excited. The major difference between these two groups is this: the people who leave on a high note are those who attend with just one goal in mind – to figure out how they can help others in the room.”
Irina Jordan with The Huffington Post agrees. She suggests networkers adopt a “giver” mentality. “Think how you can help other people, not how they can help you. The giver mentality results in authenticity and confidence. When we are in the taker mentality, we come across as needy. When in the giver mentality, we are at ease and a magnet for people. Being a giver helps you make meaningful business and personal connections.”
“True networking occurs,” said Vest, “when there’s an understanding that everyone in the room has equal value. In its purest form, it’s about people enjoying other people, communicating passions and connecting with others who share those passions. It’s about listening, figuring out what others need and connecting them with people you think can help, without any designs for personal gain. The most successful networkers go beyond thinking, ‘What’s in it for me?’ to ask ‘How can I help?’”
So the right attitude is essential but there are a few steps to take to increase your confidence and preparedness in a networking situation.
Have open and confident body language for that all-important first impression. Stand with arms uncrossed, head and chest up, smile at people walking by and, for goodness’ sake, stay off your cellphone. Have a welcoming handshake. Practice making it firm, warm and authoritative. Have a few intriguing conversation starters ready. Instead of “What do you do?” try asking, “What are your hobbies?” Finally, have a well-developed one- to three-sentence “elevator pitch” ready. Practice saying your pitch until it becomes second nature and then practice tailoring it to various audiences.
After starting the conversation and perhaps making your pitch, make it your mission to discover the value in each person you talk to. Ask questions and listen with interest. When the conversation ends, remember what that person has to offer as you move to the next. Make it a point to connect people you feel have something of genuine value to each other.
Our next mixer is at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio at 2260 Honolulu Ave., Montrose, on Wednesday, March 8 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is $7 for members, $9 for non-members.