I’m the 2022 Networker of the Year, thanks to Stacey Calder and the Business Success Awards (and Caroline Andrew-Johnstone who nominated me, that’s her in the pink dress in the photos). Without these two I wouldn’t have realised quite how far I’ve come as a networker. I squeaked when I gave my first 60 seconds but little introvert me has learnt a few things since then (and none of them are pretending to be an extrovert!).
Try Different Types of Networking
You may have a favourite meeting or type of networking, but don’t be afraid to try others. Maybe you have a brick-and-mortar shop so go to local meetings, but an occasional national one might lead to better suppliers. Perhaps you love really getting to know people through referral networking, but speed networking can be a great way to make new connections. It’s fine to be in more than one network so don’t limit yourself if there are other options.
Get Your Pitch Perfect
You may have 40 seconds or 60 seconds to introduce yourself in a meeting. Make sure you make the most of your time. Don’t assume everyone knows you, even if this is your regular meeting; visitors and newer people may have no idea.
And don’t be afraid to switch things up; no one wants to hear the same minute every single week. Emphasise different aspects of what you do each week, whether it’s different elements of your services, particular products or highlighting some of your skills. Preferably tell a brief story about someone you have worked with to help people see you in a slightly different light. (If you’d like to know more on this, Caroline Andrew Johnstone offers fab 1:1 sessions).
If you get a chance for 1:1s or open networking, don’t just sell to people. It’s not interesting to hear someone’s 60 seconds another time. Have some questions in mind to ask and actually listen to the answers. And have a few things you can mention if you’re asked what you have been up to – could be a win for the week, a big success for a client or something intriguing you’re working one. These can be the things you forget if talking to people makes you nervous – just take a few moments to think about it on your drive to the venue or at the start of the week so your mind doesn’t go blank.
It can also be a great idea to talk about non-work-related topics. If you love someone’s earrings, support the same team, listen to the same music or live in the same area then that’s the start of a connection. Or, if you prefer to talk about work or feel like you’d be fishing, then find out what they love about what they do. Do they want to help people, enjoy explaining things, like having all the figures add up? This makes for more interesting conversations and it’s fab to see someone’s eyes light up. You’ll remember this person since you know them better and be in a much better place to recommend them to the right connection.
This is essential. If there’s one thing Caroline Andrew – Johnstone has taught me (there’s definitely more than one) it’s not to waste those lovely connections you’ve made. If you really got on with someone, strike while the iron is hot and organise a 1:1. A LinkedIn connection request right after a meeting is so much more valuable than one a month later, when they may have forgotten you.
Remind people which meeting you met at and what was said, just in case they don’t check their messages until later. Marie Edwards makes a fab networking planner to make sure you don’t miss someone important.
Find a Role
There are lots of advantages to having a role in organising / hosting networking events. These range from being able to control the direction and vibe of the group, potentially lower costs, being more memorable and having more points of contact with visitors.
There may not be official roles available, but giving yourself a job can help you feel less nervous. Maybe you’ll put yourself in charge of showing people the quirk with the coffee maker, guide people to where they need to be or keep an eye out if any new people seem confused or uncomfortable. No one will mind you helping and it can give you something positive to do.
Don’t Forget Your Business Cards
I have to admit that I love the emphasis some cultures put onto business cards – the ritual of exchanging them to show you actually want to connect, rather than just frisbeeing them onto everyone’s table. If you prefer to save trees, LinkedIn has a scannable QR code you can use instead.
If you’re online, have your details to hand so you can copy and paste. Include at least your LinkedIn, or preferred platform or your LinkTr.ee if you have lots of options. If you’re on Zoom, don’t forget the http:// if you want a clickable link.
Take Opportunities to Speak
I was thrown in the deep end with this one, which meant I didn’t have time to overthink. When you feel comfortable, it’s a wonderful thing to show people your expertise by educating people on a topic. People can see for themselves your skills and they may realise they need your services more than they thought. You may be asked to speak at your regular meeting or as a guest somewhere else; say yes if it’s a good fit and you have time.
This isn’t a time to hand people a price list or blandly recite all your products: give people actual value. Think about what your audience will need to know and what they can implement or think about later. Advise is most useful when people actually use it. Make sure there are as many people as possible in the room by inviting your contacts, or at very least letting them know where you’ll be.
Keep in Touch
There may be people you don’t see for a time – maybe you don’t go to the same meetings anymore or they could be busy. Send a quick message or, if you’re both extraverts, give them a call. They could be going through a tough time but, even if they’re not, it could brighten their day up.
Do let people know if you’ve been lurking and you’ve seen what they’ve been up to, or leave a quick comment on the post. We’re all busy, but taking a few seconds to maintain connections can help us all.
Tell your social media followers relevant things. You may find people are lurking and notice more than you think. Let people know where you’re networking, especially if you’re speaking. Let more people hear you give your expertise and if it’s a good meeting, it will only be better with more visitors.
And let people know about any changes to your business – got an upcoming event, new service or something to highlight? Stick it on LinkedIn, or your preferred platform. If anyone has ever had someone say “I didn’t know you offered that” then you’ll realise that people often don’t remember everything you do.
Networking can work for everyone, you don’t have to try to be someone else as people want to get to know you. Find out what works, and do more of that. Best of all, have fun with it. I’ve met and made friends with so many people I wouldn’t have known existed otherwise. You can grow your confidence, your connections and your business all at once. Feel free to recommend any great networks and events you know of.