An Introduction to Networking

Some people take to networking events like an estate agent to a gullible rich person, while others completely flounder and struggle to overcome their flight instinct. This is just a matter of the human condition, but at some point those who hate having to deal with strangers may find themselves at a networking event. Here’s a few ways to get through it and to get the most out of it.

If you’re fretting that you won’t be able to just walk up to someone and start talking to them then don’t worry at all. People will just come up and start chatting to you on their own, announcing their amazing small business. They’ll be happy to introduce themselves and ask you what you do. This is your chance to get stuck in. Although it might be more useful to be leading the conversation, at least it means you will actually speak to some people while you’re there. This will happen continuously and others will just enter the conversation, so try not to get slowly forced out by others. Make sure to swap business cards when you can.

Preparation is of course important as well. You need to know what you need to say such as your businesses selling points, contact details and anything else your potential client needs to know about you. The thing is though, you also need to be flexible. Some selling points are going to be more important than others to certain people. Don’t just continuously cough out your memorised elevator speech. Tailor it. For example, if you’re an online accountant and you’re talking to a contractor, explain the specific benefits they could get from you. To help you with that, consider the next point.

Do as best as you can to relax. Everyone is there for the same reason. It is networking, so just try and chat with people. It doesn’t have to be all about business and no one is expecting you to be super serious the entire time. There will be some people there like that, but for the most part, the people are there are just normal business people and works want to talk to other people. You can also guarantee there will be a few people there even more terrified than you.

Also bear in mind, that even if you aren’t there to buy or hire anyone, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen. It’s always good to build up a collection of contacts no matter what they do. You never know when this information might be useful for you or someone else. Even just referring someone you met at a networking event might warrant a nice thank you off them down the line and that can always be used to your advantage if needs be.

Finally, if there is booze available, avoid the temptation to get wasted, especially if it’s free. This doesn’t mean you have to completely refrain from imbibing. A bit of drink to loosen the tongue can do wonders, but you’ll know whether or not it will help or hinder.

 

Joshua Danton Boyd is an expert on small business and freelance issues. He regularly contributes to Freelance Advisor.

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