Top tips for the awkward networker

Its 5.30pm on a Thursday evening, I’ve been at work all day in back to back meetings and I’ve just arrived at my next stop. I walk into the room and to the desk. No, I’m not in some fancy bar starting the weekend early, I’m at this month’s Networking meeting. Nervous laugh.

Everyone tells you how important it is to network but no one tells you how awkward it can be, especially for other introverts like me. I’ve gone from organising networking events, where you can stand quietly on one side of the desk, to attending as a delegate where you’re busy trying to introduce yourself and what you do without sounding “salesy” as well as remembering the name of the last few people you’ve met.

I’ve networked for a good few years now and I remember my first time at a networking event was truly terrifying. I was a nervous wreck, what do I say? How do I introduce myself?

After a few awkward events, I met a coach who gave me the best few tips for networking and I haven’t looked back since. Everyone thinks because I work in business development, I must be the perfect networker! I am far from it, I just remember to follow a few simple tricks. So, for all those awkward, shy, nervous introverted business owners, sales teams and business development managers – these tips are for you….

  1. Firstly – remember, everyone finds networking awkward, we are told the whole time we are growing up not to talk to strangers and now we are in a room full of strangers that we are supposed to talk to.
  2. Remember – everyone is there for the same reason, to build connections and develop relationships
  3. Networking events are not about instant sales – so many people think that a networking event wasn’t successful because they didn’t get any direct business out of it straight away. Networking is about building long term business relationships, spreading your message and developing a ‘Network’! if it was about selling, people would attend ‘Salesing Events’. I am pretty sure that is not even a word, let alone something you should attend! I can always spot the person in the room that’s there to sell – they are the ones that everyone else is trying to avoid usually.
  4. Look for the right spot – You want to avoid the feeling of trying to join in a conversation with the popular kids at school. There are a few ways to do this.
    1. Look for an open group – a group of people that are spaced apart enough for you to comfortably join in
    2. Get a drink – there is always someone else getting a drink and if there isn’t, well it gives you time to reassess the room
    3. Go to the toilet or hang your coat up – you will probably bump into another delegate walking back from this that you can start a conversation with.
  5. Introduce yourself – Have your phrase ready before you enter the room, too many times have I stumbled over my words when trying to join a conversation. Now, I always go for, “Hi, I’m Jade, do you mind if I join you? Simple! And then I just…..
  6. If you truly listen, you can learn a lot about the other people and look for natural affinities, remember the point is to build relationships.
  7. Work the room – don’t get caught talking to just 1 or 2 people. We all get caught with this sometimes but don’t miss the other delegates in the room. If you are chatting to an interesting individual, arrange to meet up again to continue your conversation. Which leads me to my last point…..
  8. Follow up – how many of you collect all the business cards in the room, and then don’t actually do anything with them? Like a business card hoarder! What’s your plan? Build the world’s largest card tower? No, I’m sure it’s not. You need to follow up with the people you met, it’s probably the most important part of networking. Even if it’s a short, quick email to say it was nice to meet you. If you don’t follow up, how will you nurture those ever-important business relationships. You will become just another business card collected and stored in the draw. Which reminds me…..
  9. Don’t forget your business cards – you don’t want to be stuck writing your number and email address down on a scrap of paper you found in the bottom of your bag.

 

I hope these tips help a little. Networking isn’t for everyone and it doesn’t suit every business but it  can help you to identify future clients and business relationships that could make a real difference.

If you would like some advice on how to make the most of networking, or if you just liked this post and would like to explore the themes a little further book a free consultation with me here.