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!