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10 Tips For Successful Networking

March 28, 20248 min read

By nature, I'm an introvert, so networking is almost like stepping into my worst fear. Or, it was. Now, I really enjoy it. If you understand why you're networking, and no, it's not actually to sell anything, you can really benefit from it hugely.

Networking believe it or not, is nothing to do with what happens on that day in that room. It's what happens afterward that counts. If you're an introvert like me, you will have to step outside of your comfort zone, but as long as you find the right events for you, networking will honestly become a real pleasure. Let's find out why.

What it's all about

Networking is about making connections, it's not about trying to sell your idea, product or service to anyone and if you try, nobody will trust you or want to speak to you again. The most you're going to sell, is when you get to stand up and deliver your elevator pitch (more on that in a minute). When you've done that, everyone will understand who you are and what you do. If they want to know more, they'll approach you, but more likely than not, they will wait. You can't expect to go into a networking event first time and come away with business. It does happen, but rarely. After a while, if you keep showing up, people will start to trust you, and that's when the magic happens.

Choosing the right event

There's all sorts of networking events you can choose from, females only, lunches, breakfasts, dinners, free events, paid for events, speed networking, informal networking, speaker events and so many more. My advice is not to jump straight into a membership with anyone. Even if you attend a networking event that allows pay as you go, but has a membership attached to it, at some point someone will say to you..."you know, you ought to join the membership, there are more benefits and we don't have a (whatever your profession is) in the group, you could really have the monopoly here".

I also avoid BNI but that's a personal preference. You either love it or hate it. I personally feel that you have to earn your networking stripes before even entertaining a BNI membership which is very costly and comes with a hell of a lot of commitments. Occasionally, someone will take great interest in you and invite you as a guest to their amazing networking meet-up and before you know it, you're in a BNI huddle being asked if you're going to sign up. BNI definitely has its advantages and it's ethos is spot on, but as a newbie networker the pressure and expense might be too much. Also watch out for a member saying to you, "I can't attend the next BNI meeting, can you stand in for me"? Now, I have no proof, but I'm pretty sure this is a strategy to get you in the door.

Go for pay as you go events to begin with, or free events and start to discover for yourself which ones you like most. If you're looking to connect with decision makers in large companies, you will need to pay for premium dinner events, if you're looking to work exclusively with females, a female only event makes sense. If you're just looking to connect with business owners and businesses in general, most networking events will offer that. But whatever you do, don't go once, try a few times before you give up. Networking is all about consistency, you won't get anything out of it if you only show up once.

The Elevator Pitch

I've been networking for years, and I still hate the dreaded elevator pitch. If you don't already know, the elevator pitch is when you stand up and have your 30 second to a minute to tell everyone who you are and what you do. But even if you hate it, do it anyway, it will get easier. If you have to, write down what you want to say, but once you've mastered it, leave that paper at home. Eye contact is important. If you can, try to tell a story rather than just tell people what you do. For example, I don't say "I'm Lisa Tennant from L.T. VA Services and we're a VA agency". I say something along the lines of: "I'm Lisa Tennant from L.T. VA Services and I help business owners stop trying to do all the things they shouldn't be doing, or don't have time for in their business. Imagine having someone else take care of all of that admin that's piling up, clearing your invoices, and keeping on top of your social media..." You get the picture.

Take notes

When people do their pitches, take notes. Write down who they are, and their business name. You might not get the opportunity to get a business card from them and the event you're at might not offer a delegates list. Afterward, you can connect with them on LinkedIn. This is a great way to build your connections, because most of the time, if you drop a note alongside your connection request reminding them you met earlier that day or attended the same event, they will accept. It's also a great way to get a 1:1 booked in.

The Follow Up

Networking as I said before is all about the connections you build. Because the more you go, and the more people get to know you, the more they remember you, trust you, and will think of you when someone asks if they know someone who can do something that you can do. This is when the referral magic happens. The follow up is key to this. You don't have to follow up with everyone, but if someone offers it to you, accept, unless you're absolutely sure they are trying to sell you something you don't want. If you had a good conversation with someone, or a thought popped into your head that there might be some synergy between you and another attendee drop them a message and ask if they would like to meet for a virtual coffee, to find out more about one another and possible ways of working together.

I have never been declined a follow up, and 9 times out of 10, I get a lot of value out of those calls. I find out more about the person, and usually, what I assumed I knew, I didn't know at all.

Online Networking

Online networking still has its place. Especially if you're trying to fit a lot in. I try to network weekly, but sometimes if I throw in an online event, I can get two networking events in per week. The same rule applies as in all the other steps above.

Keep a list

Keep a spreadsheet of everyone you meet. Just like you're hoping your new contacts will refer you to someone they know, it goes both ways. If someone asks me if I know someone who can do a particular thing, I always check my networking spreadsheet and make referrals when I can. This is another reason the 1:1 is such a good thing to do. You don't want to make referrals to people you don't know well, it might leave you looking stupid if that person ends up not being fit for the job. Keep a list, with a column that says what the person does or industry they are in, and drop them an email every now and then to keep in touch.

Business cards have their place

There's often a debate about business cards, but they do have their place and everyone still uses them. You can also use the QR code on LinkedIn to directly connect with someone, but I like using the business cards to capture information that might not be available on LinkedIn, such as phone numbers and email addresses.

Identify speaking opportunities

At most networking events, there will be a guest speaker. To me, this is even scarier than delivering an elevator pitch however, guest speaking gives you the opportunity to showcase your expertise, and stamp your authority in the room. I do it as often as I can, I just take a few Kalms beforehand, and at every single event I have spoken at, I have landed a client. That's not a joke. Keep talks short, around 20 minutes unless there's rules that state you have to speak longer, make it value driven and for heaven's sake, don't use it as an opportunity to sell your wares. PLEASE do not waffle on about your business, nobody likes that. make sure you are giving the whole time.

Have fun

I often joke that I have more business friends than actual friends. I network so often I have met lots of interesting people and I usually bump into them at other networking events. It makes it easier when I go somewhere new, that there's a friendly face there. Having said that, don't hog a person you know at an event, they are there to meet new people and so are you! But you will find yourself suddenly in a community of like-minded people, and that is really nice. Everyone tends to want to support one another which makes networking a lot of fun and something to look forward to each and every time.

So, if you're scared of networking don't be. I get my clients mostly from networking. I've been lucky enough to get a new client the very first time I've attended an event, and I've got clients after attending over time. I've also got clients through referrals and through speaking. The opportunities are immense. If you're not already doing it, imagine what you could be missing out on?

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Lisa Tennant

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