“I’d rather hide in the toilets than network” confessed a woman at a recent event. “I’m starting a new business – what hope do I have?”
Sophie Cornish of notonthehighstreet.com in response pointed out that “in today’s market there are so many ways to communicate via social networking – you need never leave the house.”
So a fear of talking to strangers need not hinder your chances of being successful.
In my current interviews with entrepreneurs the one consistent piece of advice is to talk, network and learn from other people as much as possible. Their only regrets that they didn’t start seeking advice sooner – and they admit they would be much further on with their business ideas if they had.
My first book Find Your Dream Job was a back bedroom project I didnt talk about to anyone. It was only when I opened up to friends and talked about the project at networking events that the book got better and my dream project was realised.
Anyone reading this in Asia Pacific probably already knows the entrepreneur and ‘contagiously enthusiastic’ networker Gina Romero. Regarded as ‘networking royalty’, she started her business life in the UK but now runs networking events for women in Singapore. http://www.theathenanetwork.com/gina-romero/. For Gina, the words ‘it can’t be done’ are a red rag to a bull. “I don’t believe that something can’t be done – I always think there’s a way or a person that can do it. That’s why I love networking. Through networking you can make things happen because it enables you find the right person.” And that comes from someone who used to be petrified of networking.
Inspired? Here are some monthly networking opportunities:
And the British Library runs the Women Unlimited Business Club http://www.bl.uk/bipc/workevents/wmbusclub.html
At a networking event recently, I swapped project ideas. As a direct result of that conversation I went on to be introduced to one of my best interviewees yet. I look forward to repaying the favour. Had I remained hiding in the toilets, it never would have happened.
Carole Ann Rice’s Dos and Don’ts of Networking
Always have an intention in mind before you go to an event. Who is your ideal client? Who do you want to meet and who would be a strategic ally? So often we can let a networking event slide into a social chit chat with food and drink and come away with nothing. You could even check out the attendee list before hand to be sure you are introduced to your desired contact.
- Extend the hand of friendship. Be open, warm and friendly and connect with everyone you meet. Be genuinely interested in what they do and find out about other guests. Even people who at first glance may not be ideal for what you do can be well connected outside the event.
- Try to connect others. Putting other people in touch with each other is generous and makes you the social fulcrum. You will be the go-to person other people will want to connect with.
- Always follow up from you business cards after the event. Invite people for a coffee, connect on Linked In or check out their websites to learn more about the folk you have met.
- You may be passionate about what you do but it’s easy to dominate and bore others once we get the chance to explain what we do. Listen to others first and show genuine interest in what they do. Listen well, our ears never get into trouble.
- Never sell. Passion can light up the room, sales pitches clears it. You are not there to do a hard sell and to push your services on to people. You are there to see what connections you can make, what you can learn about other people’s industries and see what your competitors are up to too. Make appointments for after the event when you do your 1-2-1 salesy stuff.
- Don’t let your politeness keep you stuck with the Bore For England champion or the wallflower who is clinging on to you for life. If the conversation is tedious and you have put in more than your fair share of interest, beg their pardon and move on. It’s a networking event not Friends Reunited so be bold and be strategic.
- Don’t let your personality be enough. You have to look good. Clean, contemporary, well groomed. You are your own shop window. Are you Harrods or Primark? Selfridges or the Pound Shop. People do business with people their like or admire. You want profits not their pity. If in doubt consult an image expert.