Now that we are back in the full swing of socialising again, networking can feel a little awkward and a lot rusty. Deciding how to approach someone, what to say and how to introduce yourself often need refreshing. So, with that in mind, here are the refreshers…
Always start with ‘how are you?’
Going up to someone unknown and going straight in with ‘my name is’ may feel a little intense. Starting off by genuinely asking how somebody is puts them first in the conversation. Once they respond, you can then say ‘I’m X’ or ‘my name is’ to get the ball rolling.
Remember that anyone can network
Whether introverted or extroverted, both work to your charm. Networking is a learned skill. It takes practice, discipline, perseverance and consistency to hone this skill. So whether you are shy, an introvert, starting in business – don’t be daunted. The best time to start is now and it’ll be one of the best investments you ever make in you and your business. Networking is a soft skill that leads you to grow in so many ways from presenting & communicating to leadership and emotional/empathetic skills.
The contents of the conversation
Small talk is overrated. When networking as a creative, the great thing is that we all share a passion in common. You can get nerdy at networking events with like minded people who are just as obsessed with fashion, graphic design or music production as you are! How did you get started in your business? How is it going? What are the future plans for the business? These are all great questions to start off a natural conversation. After that, go with the flow baby!
What is a 1-2-1? It’s where you schedule time to get to know a fellow member or networker. You organise to spend time getting to know one another. Many times this can be purely business focussed, but personally, I like to get ‘behind’ the person and discover their why, their purpose, their values – it’s important to know how you align with this person, before you might recommend them on to another business owner.
In real life, a 1-2-1 can be over a coffee. These days it tends to be on Zoom, but if you are close to the person, don’t discount ‘netwalking’, i.e. getting out for a ‘walk and talk’. It is important to see the person, as you need to be able to pick up as many non-verbal cues as possible to help you get a sense of the person. As you get closer and get to know people, keeping up the contact and nurturing the relationships will be combined with use of social media, emails, and of course, good old fashioned telephone calls.
Get your socials up to date
Take a few minutes after your networking meetings to ensure that you are following people on their channels. An easy way to do this is to go to the company website, as the social channels are usually all linked there, so it’s quicker to find the handles (@xxx), as let’s face it – they aren’t always streamlined or intuitive. I even met someone at a networking event last weekend who had their Instagram QR code as their iPhone screensaver ready for people to scan whenever they needed.
They say that givers gain and this is based on the law of reciprocity. Each time we give to someone else or we help another person, in life, for personal reasons or in business, we generate goodwill and develop our social capital. Have you ever been asked to promote something, connect someone, or help somebody and you felt used? You felt like this because the person was using you and your contacts, without having built up a relationship with you. Helping others can come in so many different forms: a contact, a connection, a piece of advice, an interesting article shared, interest in doing 1-2-1s and connecting authentically, invites to other networks to visits, sharing a book recommendation, referring business (the list goes on)…
Your most important asset in business is YOU. And the best way to protect yourself is to ensure you get enough sleep. Networking, while essential and enjoyable, can also be tiring and draining, particularly if you are an introvert. If you know you are going to a networking meeting, whether it’s online or in person, ensure you have had a good night’s sleep. This will ensure that you have energy to network and remain engaged. If you arrive tired, you’ll be easily distracted, you’ll find it hard to listen and concentrate…you simply won’t bring the best of you to the table.