Recently we received a reminder that a popular series of networking events for Irish SMEs is starting up again in October. Dubnet events are business ‘get-togethers’ for people who, more than likely have engaged online through social media. It is, in essence, an opportunity to build relationships – which is critical in business.
As I was registering (it’s free to attend), I realised that, in general, I look forward to these networking events. Mainly because we all know that leads / new business does not come knocking on the door. Instead, opportunities are usually found attached to people and such events as Dubnet (or groups like #irishbizpeople on Facebook), is a perfect platform to meet such people.
People either love networking or hate it. Whichever one you are is determined, in our opinion, by your attitude to meeting new people. A lot of the time people put stress on themselves, even before they attend an event. Here are some of our thoughts to help with any pre-event stress.
- Don’t worry too much about first impressions. Wear whatever you feel comfortable in because what you wear shouldn’t make or break a relationship.
- Appreciate that most of the information that will be presented (by speakers) you’ll have heard before, but that’s not the point – face-to-face engagement is.
- You should really behave yourself around the free food and beverage opportunities but do be ready to hang around a little afterwards, if required – after the formalities, people usually relax more and be themselves.
- Don’t try to be a professional networker and learn your ‘lines’ by rote – talk about what interests you, just be genuine and sincere. People, just like yourself relish real conversation, preferably stories.
- Don’t worry about leaving the company of someone who is selling to you. They probably just want to spread their business cards around anyway. Spend longer with people you enjoy
The wrong question – “So, what do YOU do?”
I’ll probably get in trouble for this statement, but I honestly believe that when people ask you this question they don’t really care about the answer. So the challenge, therefore, is for you to help them care. Don’t try and cram everything into that 20-second elevator pitch – just make your response different or interesting enough to grab their attention.
This means answering with something that is totally unique to you. Your personality should shine through and make them realise that you are a human being – not a prospect! After doing that, you might draw them in further by suggesting a common problem SMEs have, by way of a question, e.g.“You know how little time small business owners have to review their marketing?”
Usually, this leads to the ‘great minds think alike’ moment and you can then mention your elevator pitch, as part of the conversation, describing what you do.
With regard to elevator pitches – I can’t remember where I came across this simple formula so I have to use it here without appropriate credits:
“I help/teach ________ (ideal client) to ________ (feature) so they can _________ (benefit).
The caveat here however, is that if you can’t move through the stages as alluded to above, naturally – don’t attempt it. It will come across as being contrived and at worse a sales pitch. Stick with rule #1 – be authentic.
Tips and Timesavers.
We wrote on this topic on numerous occasions previously and one that seemed to resonate with people was this one – 11 Bad Networking Habits. For our tips in this post, we are taking a more positive viewpoint and would offer these suggestions:
Before you attend, change your attitude to focus on meeting friends rather than business contacts.
Remember many other people are just as uncomfortable as you are – which quite often is just shyness.
Did you know that people make a snap judgement on whether you’re trustworthy after 35 milliseconds of looking at your face – smiling indicates trustworthiness.
Before you head off to the event try and do some research in advance. Find out what type of event it is, its theme, a list of attendees and the speaker’s names.
Prepare a 10 second introduction about yourself. This is not an elevator pitch it is a warm introduction to a potential conversation.
Be more interesting. As mentioned above – give the person you’re talking to, something more to work on. Don’t just give your name and your job. Try telling them the benefit of what you do.
And how about you? Is much better than: So, what do you do? Don’t you think?
Give compliments that might encourage conversation. Make sure you accompany your observation with a question to continue the conversation.
Make people at ease and don’t wait to be approached. Why not talk to the person who isn’t talking to anybody?
Don’t be afraid to join a bunch of people who are having fun. If you are part of a group having fun, be conscious of others trying to join in. Open up!
Be nice to everyone by paying attention to them and if you must move on – do it with compassion.
Hopefully, our tips above will help you build some good networking habits. Making a few little adjustments to your attitude to networking should make meeting new people, building relationships and converting leads, a second nature to you. The main point to remember is that relationships are how you grow your business. Don’t be scared to reach out and establish real connections.
“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.
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