When I first started out on business I networked exclusively online.
Because I hate face-to-face networking. I always felt like a fish out of water and the other people seemed so false. They only spoke to me if they thought they could sell me something.
Many people said I would never get anywhere if I didn’t get out and about and meet people. Being stubborn I ignored that advice, set up a website, started blogging and have never looked back. I have been fortunate enough to work with some amazing clients (who are still with me) and now enjoy getting referrals. It’s always a thrill to pick up the phone or read an email to be told that I’d been recommended to them.
But that’s enough of that, back to the issue in hand – networking.
When I was brave enough to venture out to a few local networking events I would take a deep breath, walk into the room, hover on the edge of a group of people deep in conversation and hope someone spoke to me. Luckily for me one or two of them were reasonably friendly and did welcome me into their conversation. Not something that always happens; I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to get involved in a conversation only to be ignored-especially, I hate to say it guys, by men.
One particular memory still haunts me today. During one event I was bravely chatting with strangers when another lady came to our group with delegate list in hand. We stopped and welcomed her. She smiled, stared at our chests (another pet hate, why do we have to wear sticky labels?) checked her delegate list, realised she didn’t actually want to talk to us and walked away!
Really? Is that how to create a good impression?
Just because she don’t want to do business with us shouldn’t mean we are not worth talking to. We might know people who are looking for whatever she did.
That experience summed up formal networking events for me. You are not seen as a person who might me interesting to talk to, you’re a potential sale. Granted, you may well disagree with me, but if that’s the impression I got, I doubt I’m the only one that thinks that way.
Despite these early experiences I do occasionally go out and ‘network’, but I’m very choosey about the events I attend.
I’d much rather go to a social or book signing event that a ‘proper’ structured networking get together.
Conferences are also a great place for informal networking. People there are more interested in what you do than to sell you something (in my experience).
So how can you be more effective at networking?
By putting the ‘social’ back into networking.
Remember the people attending these events are real, not just businesses on legs. Don’t be blinkered into thinking you have to speak to everyone and hand out all your business cards. Take time to talk and connect with people-get to know who they really are and not just what they do to pay the bills.
Treat people like real people. Have a laugh and a joke with them-that will be far more memorable than a small piece of card that they’ll probably bin when they get home. You’ll never know what you might find out about them.
For those who have met me at events, tried to sell, failed and moved on, here’s a few things you would have discovered about me had you taken the time to talk to me:
- I have two fantastic sons
- I’m a volunteer wish granter with the Make A Wish Foundation
- I love going to the gym
- This year I did a 300 mile charity bike ride in 24 hours
- When ice skating as a child I almost crashed into the back of Christopher Dean
- I’ve done a bungee jump and abseil
- I’d love to do a wing walk
- I complete an English BA Hons degree with the Open University in 2007 with a First
- I’ve had one children’s book abd a novel published
There you go-yes, I am a freelance copywriter but guess what? I’m a real person too.