Through my 20 years of working in a Sales/Account Manager role, I have attended many network events.
I have to say, most of them I have entered with an amount of dread and fear! Entering a room full of suits with people already deep in conversation who are familiar with each other from previous networking events can be a tad intimidating, and it’s a situation where I find myself visiting the toilet far too many times rather than trying to break into a conversation that feels really awkward.
I found myself not going to any events for a while after being in a role where we were committed to certain ones and having to attend on a regular basis, and I have only recently started to give it a go again.
I have, however, recently changed my whole approach to networking and not committed myself to any one event or organisation. I’ve decided to try different things as it opens up opportunities to meet a bigger variety of people and am committed to going to any event with an open mind, thinking ‘what can I learn from this today?’ That way I am sure to meet some great people and companies.
So, with a change of attitude and an open mind, here are some of the things I have learnt:
- First and foremost, be yourself. It’s so true that people buy from people and as the old fashioned sales pitch is so uncomfortable for me, I find that being myself and just passionate about what we do as a business is enough. You don’t have to keep mentioning what you do, I think that listening to others is a far stronger way to build up a relationship.
- Remember to enter a room and be interested in others. You can learn so much from people and a “there you are” approach is far more memorable (for the right reason) than the “here I am approach.”
- Don’t put pressure on yourself. Connecting and talking to people can lead to great things but don’t expect it to be straight away. Often business comes much later when someone is ready to use you.
- Don’t be afraid to ask if you want to work with someone. Tell them or ask someone else in the room if they know the company you want to work with – often an introduction to a business from someone that knows them can be a really strong lead as this way you get to speak to the right person. Also, give them a reason to talk to you, maybe something you’ve noticed they are doing at the moment can strike an interesting conversation.
- Relax and enjoy. You have already taken time out of your work day so use it as time that you can enjoy yourself, meet great people and maybe have a nice coffee too! You are out of the office and taking time out of the normal routine, so make the most of it.
- Follow up with a friendly email or an observation. If you want to connect with someone then there needs to be a reason, so make that connection and give them a reason to think about you when the time arises.
- Networking should be about sharing, not taking. We are always learning and if you are meeting a wide variety of businesses they will undoubtably have knowledge and experience that will be useful to you. If you have a wide network of informed and interconnected contacts, this will definitely open up access to new and valuable information.
- Putting yourself out there and meeting new people means you are stepping out of your comfort zone and is great for building self confidence. My fear and uncomfortableness has definitely disappeared and I now look forward to meeting different people from different (or maybe even the same!) industry where I can listen and learn and not worry about competition or who’s saying what.
- Working in the creative industry, I find that networking can be an excellent source to get fresh ideas. It’s also a great way to offer useful information and tips to a contact, helping to build your reputation as an innovative thinker.
So, pick and choose your events as to where you are and what may be interesting to you, or even set up your own event. It’s good to talk; we all hide behind screens and emails most of the time so go and do some stuff you enjoy – even if it is for great coffee and cake. It’s good to talk.
Here at Idenna, we are looking at a get together with a difference soon – so watch this space for an event that will be useful for picking up some great tips for your business.
*Written before March 2020 restrictions.