3 “DO’S” TO STRATEGICALLY APPROACH YOUR NEXT NETWORKING EVENT
Networking events don’t have to be a total waste of your time and/or energy. While that’s a common complaint and challenge for many of my clients, I want to share 3 tips ‘to do’ so you can feel more prepared to see a RON (Return of Networking) the next time you’re networking!
Tip #1. KNOW THYSELF:
Just because you’re trying to meet new people doesn’t mean you need to to go every single networking event in town. Before you RSVP or decide to go to an event ask yourself, “Where do I naturally meet new people and FEEL at my best?!”
Another great question to consider before committing to a networking function is, “How do I really want to spend my professional time so I can see an RON?”
Maybe you’re at your best at a business workshop or educational seminar. Perhaps you prefer to spend your time networking while golfing or skiing. Or maybe you’re awesome at working a room at a big networking mixer where the cocktails are flowing?
Knowing what fills you up vs. what drains you is critical to your networking success. If you feel like you ‘have to go’ or ‘should go’ to an event you’ll likely end up resenting the time you’re spending there and might not have high levels of confidence.
You’re the expert on where you’re at your best and knowing what gives your energy versus what consumes your energy. Play to your strengths and have a good time. After all it’s just a networking event!
TIP #2. ALWAYS HAVE A NETWORKING GOAL:
Walking into any networking situation without a goal is like walking into a casino and hoping that gambling some of your win will ensure you walk out with more that what you started with. That my friends, is not strategic and while serendipitous networking opportunities may ‘fall into your lap’, that’s no way to ensure you’ll see an RON.
If setting a goal feels like an overwhelming task, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you have nothing to lose by creating boundaries and giving yourself clear expectations of what you’d like to accomplish while networking.
I suggest you start thinking of a goal by asking yourself one or more of the following questions:
What do you specifically want to accomplish at this event/meeting with this person?
What do you want to learn or walk away knowing?
How long can I challenge myself to stay at an event that enables me to meet a few people, but doesn’t leave me entirely drained?
On a scale from 1-10 (1-being not at all confident and 10 being completely confident) how do you want to feel when you walk into, during and after the event or networking meeting you’re attending?
Simply knowing what your ‘networking win’ is, so you can quantify or qualify it, will help give you structure and steps to take so you can make the most of your time and energy while networking.
I challenge you to create a networking goal so that you can begin to identify what’s working for you and what are some areas that you can improve upon? Remember, goal setting is a tool to help you become more effective and the only way to start is by setting a goal, trying it out and assessing what worked and what you can tweak to see different results the next time.
TIP #3. BE PART OF THE ROOM/THE CONVERSATION
If you choose to come to an event with a friend or coworker that’s great, but remember the goal of networking is to meet new people or even better, reconnect with existing contacts, so please don’t spend the whole time talking to the person you came with!
If ‘working a room’ isn’t up your alley I have two suggestions for you.
Don’t choose events with lots of people. Instead set up smaller, more intimate networking conversations over coffee, lunch or try taking a walk outside with someone. This will not only fulfill your networking needs but help you reach those pesky 10,000 steps.
If you need to go to larger networking events and feel a lot of anxiety, start by scanning the room and seek out anyone sitting/standing alone. Going up to someone alone provides an easy entry into conversation since there’s no one else to compete with and more importantly you’ll be doing that person a huge favor by introducing yourself and striking up a conversation. Trust me, when someone is standing alone they’re generally wishing that someone else would come up to them and you’ll make a great first impression by ‘saving them’ from standing alone feeling totally overwhelmed.
When you find yourself connecting with someone who’s asked you a lot of questions don’t forget to turn the spotlight onto them as well. A.K.A., don’t let an entire conversation focus on you, your work or your accomplishments. There’s nothing worse than feeling like a conversation has become a one way dialogue.
The foundation of building long-term relationships is ensuring that both/all parties present have opportunities to speak and share about themselves. Being an active part of a conversation requires you to not only concisely share about yourself, but perhaps more importantly learn how to use open-ended empowering questions to learn about others and of course seek out ways to serve or help those you meet.
My challenge to you is to seek out a networking situation that best serves YOUR needs. If you need ideas a great place to browse is Meetup.com. If you live in the Denver metro area check out my MeetUp, #inspired5280, a place to practice networking skills and strategies. After you’ve attended an event, share your thoughts about what went well on my business Facebook page.
In doing this you’ll be gifting anyone who looks at your comments with great ideas and options to use the next time they’re networking!
To access the Facebook page please click here and I look forward to hearing from you soon!
As always, Stay Connected!