Does NetWORKing have to feel like work?
Networking can be a real challenge for a lot of people. Putting yourself and your business forward is daunting and more than a little stressful. Many women don’t like talking about themselves, I often hear,”It feels so pushy.” But there's no rule that says it has to be that way; when your business is your passion, networking can be a lot of fun, too. When you are super clear about the benefits your clients have from working with you-it is much more comfortable to talk about your business.
So what is networking exactly? In short, it's introducing yourself, your skills and your business to potential connectors, partners, customers, and building a contact list to help you pursue your goals.
It's a simple concept when you break it down, but requires slightly different technique depending on your business. If you're say, a writer, your ideal network would consist of book reviewers, other writers, publishers, and people who are interested in your work. Those are very different needs compared to, say, a cook's.
Social events in particular are a great networking opportunity. Local is always a fantastic place to start, but finding the right events is up to you. If you're a writer, a cooking meetup may not be the best option. Know your audience, figure out where they hang out, and go there.
A "Networking Event" doesn't even have to have "Networking" in the title. It can be anything, a library event, a class, a fundraising walk, trip to the market, or working at a cafe. If you're a florist, attending the local gardening club can be an amazing resource. And once you're there, just enjoy yourself. Remember that you're here to meet people, not sell. Mingle with the crowd, see who else is there, be curious about others businesses and how you can help them out. If your work is your passion, then talking about it should be a piece of cake, especial in a room full of people with businesses of their own. You'll be surprised how many opportunities crop up naturally.
Make sure to exchange contact information at the end of promising conversations, encouraging others to make a coffee date to continue your discussions. This is a great time to give them your business card if they show interest. It can feel awkward at first, but it shouldn't; it's just a more professional way of saying 'let's stay in touch'. At the end of the event, don't forget to follow up. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just drop them a line and let people know that you enjoyed meeting them and suggest options to meet. Don't be promotional, just be friendly, and the more you do it the more comfortable it will become.
Still not sure about the whole networking thing? Contact us!