Even the most outgoing of humans can feel the fear when coming face to face with other business owners at events. So it’s no wonder that the introverts out there, like myself, have an extra hard time. Having to talk professionally with other business owners can be intimidating and it’s common for limiting beliefs to come up. Beliefs and fears like…
- ‘They will all be more experienced and smarter than me’
- ‘I will say something stupid’
- ‘They will judge me by what I’m wearing’
- ‘What if I have to stand up and say something in front of everyone?’
I don’t know about you, but that last one always gets me. What if we all have to stand or sit in a circle and introduce ourselves and what we do?! The worst!!!
This post was written to help you navigate all of these fears and more, and to teach you how you can show up in the best way possible. In a way that leaves you with a fuller network of brilliant people, potential leads, clients, and fulfilling experiences.
These are all tips I have received from people in my network and that I have put to the test successfully.
Networking Tip #1:
Have No Strict Agenda, Have Intentions
Networking can be super awkward, so don’t put added pressure on yourself by going in with a strict outcome in mind. When you go into an event with the goal of landing a client, getting new leads or giving out every single business card – you’re just adding to the already existing pressure. Relieve yourself of this by going in with just two intentions:
Make 3 new friends and be yourself.
People connect with people, by keeping these two intentions at the forefront you’re going to build much stronger relationships – and not be the sharky annoying person everyone avoids at the next event. You can make your own intention up, but focus more on connecting at a friendship level than anything else.
Networking Tip #2:
Have ‘YOUR STUFF’ Prepared
What stuff? Well, your business stuff! This is when a solid elevator ‘pitch’ comes in handy. I like to call this a ‘declaration’ rather than a pitch, a pitch implies you’re seeking instant responses to work with you – a declaration is just saying who you are, what you do and for who. That makes it a hell of a lot easier.
Declaration: You want to be able to say this out loud, to a real, actual, human being in person and it not sound robotic or overly salesy. This is why it’s important for your declaration to be concise, precise and a little bit of wit will go along way in making you memorable. If you’re unsure if your declaration is punchy enough to stand out – grab a buddy to practice saying it to, ask for feedback and be receptive to changing it!
Example declaration: Hi, I’m Amanda and I provide online services for homesteaders with shops by helping them promote their products, gain a bigger following and allow them to devote more time to making the products they love.
Business Cards: A lot of self employed folk on the internet like to tell you that business cards aren’t important, I call BS. ESPECIALLY if you are a virtual assistant and you’re attending business events, local ones more importantly, you’ll want to give all those brick and mortar business owners a way to connect with you and your content. Have your name, email and your website on your card. Not everyone has heard of a VA before, so look the part for THEIR environment, not what some entrepreneur said on the internet. It’s not about you, or them, it’s about your target audience. If your audience is, say, homesteaders, you’ll be doing yourself a massive disservice by not connecting with them in a way that is familiar to them.
Give out business cards AFTER having a meaningful chat with someone, when it seems so obvious that you connected, this way it doesn’t feel sleazy or pushy, it’s more like saying, ‘I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you, let’s connect after the event too, new friend!’.
Lastly, don’t be THAT person when asked for a business card who acts high and mighty and talks about how working online doesn’t require business cards – if that’s your attitude, in person networking is not for you!
Networking Tip #3:
Be A Conversation Starter, Even When You’re an Introvert!
Not to be confused with being the center of attention. There are plenty of ways to get to know your fellow attendees at events. Here’s a couple of my best tips for you:
Volunteer: If you struggle really hard with small talk, make yourself useful. Offer to help at the registration desk, or the tea & coffee stand at the event you’re attending. You could full on just apply in advance to volunteer, I have myself done this on numerous occasions. By doing so this gives you a status that makes it easy for people to engage with you, and when your ‘job’ is to talk to people, you will make plenty of connections.
Easy Connections: If you can muster up the confidence to approach people but you’re still nervous, look for the other people who seem nervous. They will usually be on the outskirts, so focus your attention on them, you could even start with ‘Hi! I saw you sitting over here and thought I’d introduce myself. I get a little nervous with events like this!’. You’ve just given them an ‘in’ too, they will be grateful and usually confide in you about their own fears. You’ve just broken the ice and made a friend. Ask them why they came, what they want to get out of the event, and you can use your shared rapport over your nerves to challenge one another to participate more.
Smile: If you’re shy and quiet, at the minimum ensure you smile and use good posture to appear approachable, other people may just come to you with that beautiful smile 😉
Listen Carefully: When groups gather, it’s totally acceptable to join in as a listener. Listen intently, and where there’s an opportunity, form some thoughtful input to the group discussion, not only will you immediate garner interest in yourself, but you’ll be immediately respected as professional.
If you can’t be LOUDER, be SMARTER: Humans tend to be drawn to the louder folks in any space, the speakers, the storytellers, the eccentric, the extroverts – that’s fine! It’s in our nature, we are intoxicated by big personalities. But when you can’t be those people, because it’s just not your nature, be smarter. Give really interesting information and facts that get people thinking, even if you only did this twice at an event, people will remember you in the same way they remember the louder humans.
Be Kind: If you are in a conversation, with someone and there’s someone else hanging around looking lost, be the person who invites others them into the chat too, being kind will never steer you wrong.
Networking tip #4:
Have Some Solid One-liners
Have a few phrases that you can say with confidence at any given time. These are not complicated phrases. For example, ‘Hi, I’m Hannah, pleasure to meet you’. Every time you speak to someone new, or get introduced to someone new. Have a sentence you can rely on to say completely naturally so you can remove any fears you have of about being awkward.
Every time someone compliments you, you could say ‘Thank you, that’s very kind of you’…I always say ‘Thank you, I appreciate it’ and follow up with a counter compliment.
Every time a break occurs, you could strike up a conversation by asking people about the event ‘What was your biggest takeaway from that last session?’
If you want to ask something more interesting to strike up a connection, you could try something like ‘what the best thing that happened to you this week?’.
Remember, that asking people what they do for work right away is often a turn-off, get to know people, keep your no agenda intention in mind!
Networking Tip #5:
This means wear whatever the hell makes you feel most powerful. If that’s a Wonder Woman t-shirt paired with red heels, then rock that. Unless there’s a strict dress code at the event you’re attending, wear what YOU would wear to feel best. You aren’t supposed to suppress who you are at events, I normally wear jeans, sneakers, a black button up and a tie. There only a FEW things I generally wouldn’t recommend wearing these are:
- Only Underwear
- Club wear 🙂
Networking Tip #6:
Remembering Names Like a Pro
It’s super easy to forget people’s names, right? Even when they have JUST told you them. Often we are too wrapped up in our nerves and what we are going to say next that we don’t listen to what the other person is saying in that moment. Don’t feel bad about it, but here are three tips to help you be the person who remembers names in the future:
- Repeat their name back to them right away to be sure you got it. Example, me: ‘Hi I’m Hannah, what’s your name?’ them: ‘Hi I’m Emma!’ me: ‘Emma, lovely to meet you!’.
- Drop their name again once or twice causally, people love hearing their own names and helps you create a connection in your brain so that you remember who they are.
- Take note of a feature you can internally associate with the person’s name, for example, John – red hair, or Janet – blue bag. Add this to your phone notes after you chat with people, especially if you are forgetful.
Follow up. The Event Doesn’t End When the Event Ends.
It would be pretty pointless for you to go to an event, wow so many people, have amazing conversations and then for that all just be locked in your memory right? Within 1-2 days follow up via email, subject line ‘John, it was so nice meeting you!’ or ‘Janet, I loved talking about Italy with you’. Something personal pertaining the conversation you had works a treat.
From here, you can begin to build a relationship with them that is meaningful, be sure to be friendly, but don’t forget to let people know what you do, how you can help, and offer support if it’s appropriate. Solidifying relationships with people you’ve met at events is beneficial in many ways, it not only elevates your status in your industry as you get better known, it gives you access to a potential new client, or referral pool. People need to know you to trust you!
So go ahead and join a networking event in your area, check meetup.com or join a industry specific conference or event with confidence, EVEN if you’re a quiet type 🙂