I had the great pleasure of speaking to a group of business women recently in Limerick and the day before the event, I was thinking about networking as an activity. I was reflecting on how my perception of networking has changed dramatically since I started my own business. Previously, I thought networking was all about getting a sale, making a pitch and basically being a pain in the behind!
Thankfully, I have moved away from that belief (it did not serve me and it made networking very uncomfortable). People hate being sold to and they can spot you a mile away so rather than attracting people you want to build a connection with, you end up repelling them.
So this is what networking is for me now…connecting. I love the idea of going to an event and making connections rather than making a sale. It’s unlikely that you would make a sale and rather than having that as the desired outcome, I have found it’s better to go in with an open mind and think about what great connections you can make (instead of judging people or worse dismissing someone thinking “they’re no use to me”).
So many people hate going to events alone as it can be quite scary walking into a room where it feels like everybody knows everybody else and you’re the only one who is alone…if you’re reading this and nodding your head, you know what I’m talking about! I am a naturally shy person so I know how hard it can be to walk into a room and start talking to people so here are my top tips on how to get the most out of networking even if your knees are shaking:
- Take the pressure off yourself. Make it about others. Craft your intention so it’s about getting to know other people and ask them questions. People love talking about themselves so give them the space to do so and they will really enjoy interacting with you!
- It’s not about quantity – focus on quality connections. I went to a networking event where the aim was to get as many business cards as possible…needless to say, I failed miserably at it as I wanted to make quality connections not just end up with a handbag heaving with business cards that had no meaning for me. This doesn’t mean monopolise someone but go in with the intention of creating meaningful connections.
- Don’t fall into the trap of short term thinking. You may not make a connection that gives you immediate results…don’t dismiss this. Nurture and build your connections – you never know what might come out of it and it may not even be with that individual but through them.
Let’s stop thinking networking is a bad thing. I love to meet people and build relationships – this is what business is ultimately about so do it on your terms. You’ll still come across the ‘networking sharks’ but pay no attention and stay focused on your intentions.