There’s no denying that networking can seem like a scary prospect and if the thought of walking into a room full of people you’ve never met fills you with terror, it’s worth remembering that even the most seasoned networkers feel nervous.
Networking is, for most business people, right up there with public speaking when it comes bringing on a serious attack of nerves. Although we all know this, most people I know walk into a networking event with the feeling that they are the only ones with butterflies. You might never be able to shed your networking nerves completely but is there any way to relax a little and make networking work for you?
Overcoming worries about business networking
Even the thought of walking into an after-work event full of strangers fills most of us with dread but remember that the vast majority of people in the room feel exactly as you do. Introverts find networking particularly difficult because they prefer their own company, rather than spending time making conversation others. However, introverts can use this to their advantage as they’ll tend to talk to people for longer, leading to more opportunities to make a connection and build relationships. Working the room and having a quick chat with everyone isn’t necessarily the best option.
On the flip side, coming on too strong is a big networking no-no. Selling your product or services isn’t appropriate in a networking environment: remember that no one is at the event because they want to buy so why would you go to sell?
What’s the best approach to networking events?
From the very first moment you walk into the room you should start looking at other people’s body language. Don’t interrupt the two people who are talking closely but if there are a couple of people standing next to each other facing into the room, their body language is saying ‘come over and have a chat.’ People standing on their own are an easy target: like you they’re looking for someone to talk to so why not help them out by going over and introducing yourself?
The next bit is easy: all you have to do is introduce yourself and ask if you can join them. Remember that you’re all in the same boat and they are there to network just like you. Be yourself and try to avoid falling into the trap of adopting a networking persona: it’s impossible to keep up the façade so don’t worry about showing your nerves as this will just show that you’re human!
Getting the most from business networking
A networking strategy is important if you’re going to maximise your opportunities and get good results. The big question is how do you know who is going to be a good contact? The answer to this is to keep talking to people as this is the only way that you’ll find out if they, or their contacts, are the type of people who can help you move your business in the right direction.
Although you’re likely to meet lots of people who won’t necessarily be useful, it’s still worth getting to know them as their contacts could lead to referrals much further down the line. At the end of the day, the goal is to find as many ‘warm’ introductions as possible as this will allow you to make contact once the event is over.
What are you waiting for?
With dozens of opportunities for business networking held each week in Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, York, Hull and throughout the Yorkshire region there’s lots of opportunity to get out there and make new contacts, business alliances and new customers.