5 Tips for Reluctant Networkers
When I started Your Time Matters , I knew the most cost effective way to build my business with a limited marketing budget, was to go out and build a network. I knew that to increase brand awareness and visibility of my service, I needed to meet people. I knew it was important to engage with other business owners who could help me develop my business skills, provide me knowledge and build relationships with likeminded others who in time would become my advocates, suppliers and clients.
In the early days, I recall attending a business breakfast and taking my husband along for support, under the pretence that the speaker would be of interest to him. I think it really to boost my confidence. Even though I had escorted groups overseas, run a craft market with over 100 stallholders and taught in a classroom, I had not fully realised how transferable my skills were to be.
On occasions we are all reluctant networkers!
Reflecting back, through my career portfolio, I had talked to and built relationships with loads of people whilst employed in the travel industry, arranging itineraries for corporate clients and even, escorting groupsof 100 plus people on conference tours. I had established and operated a successful craft market in the ‘90’s and organised hundreds of stall holders on a monthly basis, negotiated with local council and marketed to the public, with never a qualm.
Years as a teacher had developed my communication skills through engaging with children, parents and fellow staff members. My ability to make conversation and ask the right questions was enhanced as I assisted Corporate executives and their families settle into Melbourne, when working as a Home Relocation consultant. I had grown a diverse network and should never have doubted my ability to connect and establish relationships. Even as a parent, contributing on committees and talking with parents on the sidelines at sport events, had taught me the value of social networks and the art of conversation. For me, that is what networking is all about. Connecting, engaging, building relationships and looking for opportunities to help others achieve their desired outcomes, whether in a social or professional level.
If you are in business or are seeking employment then you MUST get out. The power of word-of mouth and “who do you know who…? ” will open doors and opportunities more cost effectively, than advertising your services or answering an advertisement on an employment website where hundreds of people respond for the one job or provide a similar service or product. Many people are reluctant networkers and find it hard to start an initial conversation with strangers. In fact, arriving at a party or work function to a room full of people you do not know is often intimidating and I do recall those feelings and on occasions, am reluctant to approach those I did not know. Remember, that many people feel exactly the same and you can help them be more comfortable.
Here are 5 tips I suggest you apply to both your social and business networking to make your networking experience easier.
- Take on the persona of the Host of the party. As the “Host” make others feel comfortable . Pass around the food, or introducing people to one another.
- Be yourself, smile and relax. Start to build rapport. Be friendly. Share something of yourself .
- Focus on the person you are speaking with…. they are the most important person in the room.
- Ask open questions and practice active listening.
- Be on time. It is easier to be approached, than to break into a group that is already established in conversation.
Remember, practise makes perfect and all the encounters you have with a range of people, both socially and professionally, will build not only your networking skills, but also your busienss. Think of Networking as relationship building, not selling. If you want more experience in a friendly and supportive environment, join me at a YTM Business Networking event soon.