Are you the type of person who doesn’t believe in the power of networking? Meeting people you’ve never met can be nerve racking. It’s something like going on a first date. There are butterflies in your stomach, and you find yourself at a loss of words when you meet another for that first time. Think about it. You plan on going out for an entire week if not an entire month. You eat right so you look amazing in the “right” outfit you are wearing that is professional yet attention getting; think power suit. You practice your smile and conversation topics to break the ice. Your business cards are in the ready for when you meet someone you want to develop a long-term relationship with. Did this bring a new set of butterflies? So, why network? Networking can be fun and adventurous if you have the right frame of mind. It can also be extremely profitable if you spend the time to get to know it.
You’re entering the room where the networking event is being held. You suck in your stomach, walk in and now what? First off, smile. A smile is contagious and empowering. You may not believe it, but when you smile you appear to be more confident. Confidence is a powerful characteristic that people are attracted to and with confidence you are emitting a likeable and approachable you. When you’re approachable other people do the talking first. So relax! Networking isn’t about you. It’s about listening to the other person. Listen to where they’re from, what type of business they run, and what brought them to the event. Most importantly, listen to a way you can be of service to that person. Of course, you’re going to have to open your mouth and talk about you, but make a point to leave the event knowing more about others.
Don’t forget to mingle. You are there to meet not just one but several people so as to build a growing network. Whether your goal is to find new clients, make a sale, seek a new job or hire a new employee you won’t accomplish it unless you mingle. If you’re thinking that you’re having a great time with the person you’ve been talking to for the last fifteen minutes and there’s no need to introduce yourself to anyone else, think again. Hiding behind the idea that you can search the internet for write-ups or reviews to get to know other professionals isn’t enough. There isn’t an online review that will help you deal with some of life’s minor annoyances or most challenging problems when they present themselves. It’s the “human” network you’re building that can provide role models for you, advise you and comfort you, provide you with financial assistance, or intellectual and social resources. We need to cultivate good relationships with people who we may call on when we’re in a crunch and need to handle a crisis.
No different from going on a first date, you are going to want to follow-up to say “thank you” for their time. Instead of sending flowers, you might send a card or an email saying that you enjoyed your conversation and hope to see them again maybe for a cup of coffee at a local coffee house. Remember one thing, everyone enters that same networking event with butterflies, including the most experienced networker. It’s the thrill of knowing there are opportunities available to be captured. Like every first date, once it’s over and you’ve built a connection with someone, you feel like a million bucks.