Networking For Dummies: Simple Tips For the Dreaded Networking Newbie

Do large, fancy networking events make your skin crawl?

Some people start working the room without a moment’s hesitation but if you’re anything like me, those massive events can feel insincere and isolating.

As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know but who you know”, so not networking is definitely not an option. Here are four helpful pointers to make your networking strategy feel less slimy and tons more effective:

1. Go Hot!

Going hot is the opposite of the cold call, or in this case, the cold introduction.

Instead of going to an event cold, knowing either no one or only one or two people in the room, figure out how you can connect with those people beforehand so you enter the room with a bunch of warm (hot!) contacts.

With most events, this is pretty easy. Sites like Facebook and Meetup let you see who the other attendees will be in advance. Is there something interesting on their profile you can ask them about? Or maybe you notice that you are both members of other groups too? Strike up a conversation!

In addition, these days there is a Twitter hashtag for everything so search for the event and start chatting with other “Twitterers” who are talking about attending.

Conversations will start much more easily, because you already casually know a couple of faces from your Twitter/Facebook/Meetup convos.

2. Don’t go!

Why do we believe that it is only at events with 200+ attendees that any real connections can be made?

Don’t spend all your time and energy stressing about attending huge events that intimidate you so severely that you hardly speak to anyone. Instead consider going to a bunch of smaller events.

In smaller settings it’s often easier to get to know people and because there are less people in the room, you’re not spreading yourself thin rushing around trying to meet everyone.

Attending smaller events is also a great way to build up confidence in your networking skills so you can eventually attend the big fancy-pants soiree and glide around the room like a pro!

3. Networking events aren’t always called networking events

We often think that unless the words ‘networking event’ are somewhere in the event title, then no one will want to talk about business. Not true!

Conferences, workshops and classes on just about any topic under the sun are excellent opportunities to make new connections and reconnect with old contacts.

You can share what’s happening in your business, get a fresh perspective or helpful resource on a challenge you’re struggling with and very often, you’ll find new clients in the process.

4. Relationship-building trumps cold networking every time

I’ve found some of my best referrals and clients while participating in activities that interest me; things that are fun!

Follow your interests. That might mean starting a book club, volunteering with an organization you’re passionate about or joining a sports team or yoga studio.

The relationships we build in activities like these are some of the most powerful because when we interact with these people we’re not in crazy pitch-mode, hunting for prospects. We’re relaxed, chatting casually, asking about their family vacation, showing them pictures of our dog, etc.

We’re making friends and before you know it, the Know+Like+Trust factor is so solid that these relationships naturally lead into great referrals or actual customers themselves.

Don’t forget that if you are active on Twitter/Facebook and posting regularly on blogs and other online communities, that’s all networking too!

Whether you want to become the social magnet at the center of every room or you’re happy keeping it low key, try these strategies to step your networking game up. I’m willing to bet they will help you grow your network and (bonus points!) make lasting friendships in the process.

Do you have any other networking strategies that might help us shy guys and gals?

Please share your ideas below!

 

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Annika MartinsAnnika Martins is the creator of The Catalyst Sessions, a jump-start series designed to boost women entrepreneurs from mediocre to magnificent. Annika works with clients who want to make big money through meaningful and enjoyable work. Check out her video blog at http://www.annikamartins.com or catch her on Twitter at @annikamartins

Comments

  1. Really interesting points – I particularly liked the first one, as I’ve never tried it before and (whilst hopefully not seeming like a stalker) I can definitely see its advantages!

    I’ve only been going to networking events for a very short time, but one thing I’ve learnt very quickly is to have an answer to ‘so what do you do?’ that’s a benefit.

    It’s obvious, and I’m sure all you old pro’s will be used to that, but as a ‘networking newbie’ it’s really important not to blurt out your job title and have nothing else to say!

  2. Thanks, Annika! That’s really helpful.

  3. Thanks for pointing that out, Jez! You are so right. Being ready to say what you do quickly is crucial. I’d even suggest taking it to the next level by also highlighting the value what you do provides to your customer – sets a strong tone for the rest of the convo. Happy networking!

  4. Yes!! Great points, Annika. I’ve mostly stopped going to “networking” events, but I go to a lot of other social meetups and groups, and some of my best contacts come from there. Somehow it’s easier to connect with people when the focus is on shared interests and there’s no, “how is this person going to pitch me” undertones.

    • Precisely! We like to do business with our friends, as they say, so focusing on building friendships naturally leads into business growth too. Glad this approach has been working for you too, Sarah! :)

  5. Annika, this is an excellent post! I’ve created a non-networking networking group based on these ideas! I’ve never liked the cold exchange of business cards. I guarantee you I won’t remember you if all you do is hand me your business card and give me your elevator speech.

    I love making connections not contacts. I have used your #1 point at the last big ‘networking’ event I went to and it was very effective at helping me strike up conversations, and even look for people there to connect with that I wanted to learn more about.

    Social media has been a great way to find like-minded people and my target market, but being able to take it offline in a casual format has helped me build relationships and friendships that are making an impact on my overall business.

    • Thanks for sharing, Sandra. Absolutely – social media has really leveled the playing field and gives many of us access to people we previously wouldn’t have met because we weren’t comfortable approaching them at major networking functions. I love your distinction: connections, not contacts. Beauty! :)

  6. Really interesting! I myself is the kind of shy type so your advice is very welcome. Thanks.

    • Glad to hear it, Lloyd. I hope you try some of these ideas for yourself. I came up with this list for the same reason: although everyone who meets me assumes I’m socially outgoing, I’m actually pretty shy so schmoozing at massive events feels awkward. These strategies have been much more effective and don’t make me feel insincere. Good luck!

  7. excellent post, i used to go to “networking” events, but have found some of my best contacts come from websites, if there`s a shared interest them a friendship is made really quickly

    • Thanks, John. What sites have been most effective for you? Social media or niche sites around a business interest/hobby/passion of yours?

  8. These are some great ideas, thank you for sharing. I was just going to start searching for networking tips so finding this article beat me to the punch!

    • haha. Glad I could help streamline your search process, Janet! Good luck with your networking – impressive that you were going to look for tips beforehand. How very proactive of you:)

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