Networking. A word that can strike fear into many business owners because it directly confronts our imposter syndrome and we worry that we’ll be “caught” as a “fraud”. The stereotype of networking is a big room, full of hard-nosed business men and women in sharp suits with little time to chat once they figure out you’re of little value to their business goals.
It’s just not like this any more.
I’m sure there are still places where networking looks like this, I worked for a private members club on Pall Mall 15 years ago and I’d bet a penny to a pound that their events still look a lot like that. It’s refreshing to know that it’s not the only way to network though.
There are, of course, still the big networking events but more and more often entrepreneurs are choosing to use smaller events to connect with people and these smaller events give you the chance to meet EVERYONE there and talk to them, calmly, with no rush and without the pressure of the bigger events. It might be a breakfast meeting in a local cafe, a drop in at a small coffee shop or an evening event in a pub.
Perhaps you’re struggling to find a networking event that meets your needs or happens at a time you can attend, create your own! There’s no need to wait for it to happen! If you want to connect with people, create your own networking opportunities. You could do a group on social media and begin sharing ideas and practices in there, you could set up an offline event and invite people to come along, you could do a myriad of things to help grow your business through your connections.
Networking is about making connections, whether you’re making connections personally or helping others to connect with complementary businesses, it’s all networking. Keep building relationships and find out how you can help people rather than trying to sell to them and you will soon find you have a network of like minded individuals around you who are recommending your services to THEIR network too.
Top tip here – when you connect with someone new, especially on social media, don’t immediately invite them to your business page or group without first talking to them. This is the same as dragging someone off the street to attend your party! They don’t know you so why would they be interested in your business? Focus on building a relationship with them first, make it about the connection, not about getting one more like.
If you find networking scary (I know I have and still sometimes freak out a bit, especially worrying down the “omg they’ll all think I’m a fake” line, start small. Start with a few people you know and begin getting comfortable saying who you are and what you do. Practice it. If it really worries you but you know you need to do it for your business to move forward, get some help to build your confidence.