30 Oct 9 tips to be a more confident networker
Do you shy away from networking groups as you’re never quite sure what to say? Do you think everyone else there is more confident than you and knows what they’re doing? Are you scared that you may be exposed as a big fraud who hasn’t a clue about their business and can’t even stand up and tell people what they do in 60 seconds? Do you imagine yourself standing alone whilst everyone else is chatting away in their small huddles?
If you’ve nodded your head at any of these questions, then here are some tips to get you feeling more confident.
1. Arrive a few minutes early
This is a great tip if the thought of walking into a room full of people fills you with dread. Just get there early before everyone else and you can walk into an empty room!
This way, you can be there to greet people when they walk in and start a friendly conversation. You’ll be putting them at ease (they probably hate walking into a room full of people too) and yourself at ease too.
2. Find out what to expect beforehand
Contact the organiser before the event to get an overview of the structure of the meeting. Is there a time slot for everyone to talk about their business or is it more informal networking? Who else will be attending?
You can ask the organiser for a list of attendees before the meeting and check them out on Google / Linked In etc. and see if there any particular people you are keen to talk to, whether they may be possible mentors, future joint venture partners, your ideal clients or just someone you’re really interested to find out more about.
3. Hover by the coffee
If you find yourself standing alone and struggling to catch someone to chat to, then head over to the coffee. Most people will head here at some point and it’s a great way to start a conversation with someone.
You always say ‘Mmm, lovely coffee. Are you a coffee or a tea person?’ if you are really struggling to come up with something to say.
Which brings us to the next tip….
4. Have some questions ready
If you’re at all worried about what you are going to say then have a few questions ready to ask to let the other person do the talking and start up the conversation. Once it gets going you’ll soon be joining in and, hopefully, they’ll ask you some questions too. (If they don’t then they might be either a) only interested in themselves, or b) very nervous themselves. )
Examples of simple conversation starters are:
- Where have you travelled from today?
- Did you have a good journey?
- Do you go to any other networking events?
And of course, you can always fall back on the good old British tradition of talking about the weather if all else fails!
The idea is just to start a conversation to put you at ease and find out more about the other people.
5. “And what do you do?”
Be prepared for this question as you will be asked it. Practice your response beforehand. Keep it succinct and interesting with an invite for the listener to want to find out more if they want to.
(If you’re not comfortable with this then there are more tips in ‘5 steps to getting more customers’ which is the bonus free report I give to everyone who subscribes to my ‘Rock Your Business Tips’. If you’ve not got a copy yet you can get yours here)
6. Keep your business cards accessible
There is nothing worse than offering to give a business card to somebody and then spending 10 minutes emptying the contents of your bag as you try and find the darned things. Especially when your hands are already full holding a coffee and a notepad. I speak from personal experience here!
I now make sure my business cards are on hand to easily be got at. I either use a side pocket in my handbag which is the perfect size or, if you have a name badge in a plastic holder, these can be just the right size to slide some business cards behind your name.
You will also recieve business cards from people you meet so consider how you want to store these so you’re not rummaging through your bag when you get home. (Again, personal experience here)
7. Don’t be disappointed to not get any new business / customers
It’s unlikely for anyone to get this from networking at first as networking is all about building relationships, and this can take time.
If there are people you meet who you feel could be useful in some way to your business (mentor, customer, joint venture etc.) then ask them if they would like to meet for a coffee and find out more about them.
Getting a couple of coffee meetings arranged is a good outcome from networking. It is these that will help you the most.
8. Follow up on the spot
Don’t swap business cards and tell someone you’ll be in touch if you know you want to meet them to find out more. Arrange it there and then. Have your diary on hand and get a time booked in.
After all, you don’t want to lose your nerve and not make the call once you get home. Plus, it’s also a better use of time to do it there and then!
9. Remember – you are not alone!
(cue singing of Micheal Jackson song – ‘you are not alone, I am here with you…’)
And back to the networking.
Remember this important point – There will be lots of other people networking who are feeling nervous. Trust me.
Helping them to feel at ease can also help you to feel at ease, so keep an eye out for anyone who maybe nervous and be sure to share these tips, or least make a conversation with them and help them to feel included.
What networking tips or funny stories about networking do you have to share? Leave a comment to let me know.
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Kevin WillettPosted at 12:21h, 16 December
I host monthly networking events and I love your advice to arrive early to an event it gives me a chance to speak with them and learn who I should introduce introduce them to. It really does make a big difference.
Alison BradfordPosted at 11:24h, 17 December
Thanks Kevin – it’s great that you can back this up from your own experience.