With less than a week to go before our Launch + Learn Networking Happy Hour, we thought it may be helpful to share a few tips on networking.
Stop dreading and start enjoying.
Not surprisingly, the most common feedback we get from the women entrepreneurs we work with is how much they dread networking events and having to "sell" themselves.
In fact, most people would prefer to put a dull stick in their eye than have to leave the comfort of their homes (and yoga pants) in order to mix and mingle with a room full of strangers and attempt small talk.
The good news?
Networking can actually be fun.
And with a few simple tweaks to what you're thinking and doing, even the introverts of the world can leave a networking event feeling like they had an amazing night out.
But don't just take our word for it.
We've asked the rockstar women entrepreneurs in our Rock It! community to share their favorite tips and tricks for networking as well. Below is the smorgasbord of awesome that resulted.
1. Focus on making one meaningful connection.
We've all heard the horror stories of people going to networking events, having business cards shoved in their face by people who only care about passing their cards to as many people as they can. It's like a business card drive-by. Not only is that approach ineffective, it's also just plain rude.
A better approach: focus on meeting one person and having a meaningful conversation with them. Learn more about what they do and how you can support them.
It's better to make a few meaningful connections than briefly say hi to the whole room. I really value when someone looks me in the eye and actually listens to what I'm saying, rather than looking past me to seek who she's going to go not listen to next.
» Sam Laffey, Principal, Copywriting for Creatives
I'm both shy and an introvert - not the best combination when it comes to networking events. I focus on reaching out to just one person; it's the connection that matters. Going to a networking event solely to hand out business cards guarantees that all of those cards will end up in the recycling bin, and those cards aren't free!
» Heather Herrington, Owner, Flawless Execution Events
I'll find one person who is standing alone and introduce myself to her, usually with a remark like "I don't know anyone else here, mind if I join you?" Usually they are relieved because they don't know anyone else either, and then conversation can happen about why we're there, what we do, etc. And then I can feel like the event is a win, because at least I spoke to 1 person.
» Jessica Strong, Principal Consultant, Strong Trainings
2. Set an intention before entering the event.
Most people walk into networking events blindly. They feel like they've won the battle simply by showing up. Sadly, they are also likely to leave feeling disappointed because they didn't make the connections they wanted to.
A better approach: Decide ahead of time what you want to accomplish, and even who you want to connect with, so that when you walk through the doors you have a purpose and a plan.
My best piece of networking advice is to set an intention and realistic goal before entering the event. I usually set a goal to meet one to three new people and offer my help or support to someone through a real conversation."
» Leigh-Anne Weiss, Owner, Airheads Balloon Art
3. 'Tis far better to give than to get.
A bad habit of folks who attend networking events—and one of the many reasons why they get such a bad rep—is the habit of business owners to simply listen for an in to sell their product or services. Regardless of whether that product or service is right for you.
A better approach: Listen for ways in which you can support the person you're speaking with. Even if that means connecting them with someone else. In the end, this will make you a more valuable connection and allow you both to leave the conversation feeling heard and supported.
Be vulnerable and attentive. Don't think about selling yourself but think 'how can I help you with your business/world?'.
» Amanda Narcisi, Chief Editor, BOLD Pittsburgh
4. Fancy yourself a reporter.
Does the thought of small talk make you break out in a cold sweat? Do spend half of the time you're talking with someone trying to think of what to say next instead of paying attention to what they're actually saying? Not fun, is it.
A better approach: Fancy yourself a reporter and start asking questions. Get super curious, dig deeper, and really engage with the person you're speaking with. It will feel a heck of a lot less scary, and will take you off the hook from trying to find something brilliant to say.
Bonus: it also makes the other person feel great because you care enough to learn more.
I focus on staying curious. It takes some of the pressure off of coming up with conversation and helps me truly engage with others.
» Audrey Vanim, Wellness Coach + RN
So much of future outcomes starts with being present in the now. I like just getting to know people socially, discussing topics that are meaningful to us & having that "I like this person" moment. After that, so much can fall into place!
» Maria Graziani, Co-owner, Healcrest Urban Farm
I am a connector. I love to hear people's stories and find some way I connect with them. My goal is to learn about people and try to find one tip or trick they have that I could adopt.
» Emily Marko, Visual Problem Solver
5. Be prepared!
It's stressful enough to attend a networking event. Being unprepared can add an entirely new level of flustration (flustered + frustration) that makes it near impossible to feel confident in yourself and your abilities. It can also come across as flakey or like you simply don't have it together, turning potential customers off.
A better approach: A little preparation goes a long way! Make sure you have business cards in your purse, the address of where you're going already programmed into your phone or GPS, and that you give yourself plenty of time to make it to the event. It can even help to take a peek at the other attendees so you have a plan of who you want to meet.
This is pretty obvious but bring business cards (lots of them!). So often we go to events and are on the run from somewhere, we switched bags, left our purse in the car, etc, and we don't have (enough) cards. I've adopted a purse that I use just for networking that is stocked with cards and a pen so I can have my hands free and a place to stash cards I have received. It sounds silly but this has helped me be more prepared and organized and I'm not trying to juggle my cards, other cards, a phone, wallet, etc.
»Stephanie Kirby, Owner/Head Designer at The Blue Daisy Floral Designs
I love the idea of checking out the people who are attending beforehand and choosing a few people you really want to make a point to connect with during the event. Easy to do when there's a FB group - you can uncreepily check people out to see who would make the most sense to connect with.
» Emily Cassell, Life Coach & Dream Weaver