One of the hardest thing for many entrepreneurs to do is network. Show up in a room full of strangers and start talking. But it’s absolutely key to the success of your business. After all, the old adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know” only works if you know people!
What to Expect
If you’ve never been to a networking event, here’s the rundown. First of all, there are probably dozens of networking events and leads groups that meet in your area. Start by choosing one that’s a good fit (i.e. is in your industry or otherwise relates to your business’ interests).
Most networking events start with everyone mingling. Here’s my best tip: you’re not the only one! Chances are there are many newcomers, and maybe some other newbies to networking, so don’t be nervous! They’re just people, and people who want to meet you at that.
If you’re lucky, someone will spot you cowering in the corner and come over and introduce themselves. If not, take a deep breath and extend your hand to the nearest person and introduce yourself. Conversation tends to flow pretty smoothly after that (“What do you do Todd?” “Oh, my son went to that high school!”)
Make sure to exchange business cards.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Networking
Here’s a common misconception about networking: people want instant pudding. They want to go to an event and come back with ten new clients. That’s just now how it works. Networking is about building relationships. Maybe the first person you meet won’t be a client (at least, right now). But he might be able to refer business to you down the road, or you might be able to help him find a roofer who won’t overcharge. It’s about helping one another.
Another great tip is to ask a lot of questions. You’re not there to talk about yourself. You’re there to learn about others (and just possibly, how you can help them). Try to remember the people you have good conversations with. Take notes on their business cards and follow up afterward.
After the event, send at least an email (bonus points for handwritten notes) telling the key people you met it was great meeting them. Add a personal note about something you discussed (“How ’bout them Jets?”). Add them to your contact database and follow up every so often to develop the relationship.
- Don’t be nervous. After a few of these events, it’ll be second nature.
- Get your elevator speech down to a few sentences. You should be able to answer “What do you do” quickly.
- Ask lots of questions. Try to help others.
- Bring plenty of business cards.
- Get plenty of business cards!
- Follow up and keep in contact.