What does the word “networking” conjure up in your mind? Do you think of a bunch of A type personalities in a room looking to only talk about me, me, me? Perhaps that could be the case, but if so, then you are in the wrong networking group.
When you are beginning to explore the world of networking, you need to find your people, your niche. While big meet ups for business owners are great, chances are you might not be connecting with the right people. This can lead to boring or dull conversations. How many times have you been in a mismatched conversation with someone you are just dying to walk away from… politely?
Step One – Identify Your Goal:
Who do you want to meet? Is it people just like you in the same industry? This can be helpful to get information on how to establish your business by learning from others who have done it before you. Or, is it to make connections with people in parallel industries. For example, Kate is in Wedding Photographer so maybe she want to meet people who are Wedding Planners, Venue Owners to start so she can help her clients and build value in her business.
Step Two – Find Those People:
For the sake of this example, let’s say we are the Photographer Kate and want to find a parallel market, how do you find networking groups? First, she should ask a peer in her industry that is successful and has experience. Ask them if they know of any groups or meet ups. Second, the good old internet. Look for groups on Facebook, Facebook Events or Google by searching for keywords in your industry.
Step Three – Commit to the Event:
We all get cold feet. And sometimes walking into a room of strangers is really hard to do. So bring a friend who might be interested. However, know that everyone there is looking for the same thing, you just have to put yourself out there.
We hope to see you at a Wedding Network Seattle event soon! To learn more about our upcoming events, visit our events page.
Kate and her friend made it to the networking event – Eastside Wedding Boss Ladies (not a real thing) and there are hundreds of people in the room? How do you talk to them all? – WRONG MENTALITY.
Step One – Quality not Quantity:
If you walk into the room and think you have to talk to everyone – You. Are. Wrong. It is all about quality conversations. See step two.
Step Two – Don’t Talk About Business:
Wait… I am at a networking meeting, shouldn’t I focus on that? Wrong again. Use your business as the ice breaker to start the conversation and find out information about them that you have in common. Because the bottom line is at the end of the night you are not going to remember them as a business, but them as a person. “Oh yeah I remember talking to Susan, she was from Seattle and had a catering company, but her kids play Lacrosse like mine.”
Step Three – Know When to Step Away:
UGH…we all hate when we can’t find a way to leave a conversation. You have a good connection to Susan but the conversation is getting stale, what do you do? Don’t say – “oh I need to [insert excuse here].” Just politely say you enjoyed meeting them and offer a follow up.
“Susan, I would love to send you an email and see if we can help my client with their home remodel. I am going to mingle a little bit more but it was so great to meet you.”
Trust me, they are probably thinking and feeling the same way too.
Of all the tips so far, this one is the most important. We all heard our parents or coaches preach “repetition, repetition, repetition” this will make you stronger. Well it’s true.
When you first start networking, attend several different kinds of meetings to find groups that you like. Not all of them are going to be a perfect fit and that is ok. However, you shouldn’t just go once because there will always be different people at each event. Give each group a couple tries before making a commitment or decision. Especially if a group is new, there are always growing pains.
Some networking groups might offer a membership where you can get added benefits for joining their group. Often they might put your business name on their website which has added marketing and SEO benefits. That’s a win-win right?
After attending several networking events you found your people. These people you enjoy spending time with and getting to know more. You attended several meetings over the past year and have really solidified yourself in the community, but do you want more?
Offer Your Strengths
If the answer is yes, then ask to get involved in a leadership position. These events don’t just run themselves. There are always people behind the scenes making the events run. Tell them you would like to be more involved and help. Maybe you are good at Social Media and can help promote the events.
Or maybe planning and logistics is your thing, where you can offer to help coordinate the meetings and organize volunteers. Whatever the avenue may be, taking a leadership role will help other businesses see you, even if you haven’t met them yet one on one.
You Just Do You
If the answer is no, that is perfectly ok –keep attending, meeting new people and solidifying the relationships you made.
-Written by Kayla Heffner, Seatown Sweets
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