Networking can seem a little daunting to the networking novice, and going into a room full of what is essentially strangers and having to make conversation is not necessarily every person’s cup of tea. However, networking really is an extremely powerful tool and can be of tremendous benefit when growing your business – although if you are on the iwant2network hopefully you are already sold on that one. So for the networking newbie, how on earth can you prepare for your first networking meeting?
No, this doesn’t mean doing a sneaky Facebook stalk of all the possible attendees. Some networking organisers will send out a list of attendees in advance of the event and we would recommend scouting out who you think could be helpful and doing a little research on their company website as well as LinkedIn. There is also nothing wrong with messaging them beforehand and saying you are looking forward to meeting them – this way you will feel far more prepared before you enter, which will help bolster your confidence and, hopefully, your enjoyment of the event.
There are certain items you should never attend any networking without:
- Business cards – the whole reason you are there, this one is pretty non-negotiable
- Breath mints – we hope this one is self-explanatory
- Pens – you may want to jot down some notes on a business card reminding why you want to email someone
- Elevator pitch
Whether the networking event offers you the opportunity to give a formal 60 second pitch or simply to meet and interact with new professionals, you will have to give an elevator pitch. This is a small brief about you, your business, experience and (if appropriate) the type of referrals you are looking for. We would most definitely recommend, really we can’t stress this enough, practicing in front of the mirror. The more natural and focused your pitch the better, so set aside some prep time to practice what you are going to say. Trust us, no one has ever regretted being too prepared. We would also recommend printing a piece of paper off with notes, avoiding any awkward fumbling or squinting at a too small computer screen. And lastly, but most importantly don’t forget to be yourself.
- Leave with plenty of time
You know how when you have a job interview you will leave with so much time to spare you could probably fit in a quick blow-dry and makeover (I’m sorry, I’m not sure what the male equivalent is of this)? Well, networking should work on the same principle, if for no other reason than you don’t want to be the person who arrives huffing and puffing because they couldn’t find the building and spent the last 10 minutes running around the city. Not good guys. Instead, leave with plenty of time and remember the early bird always catches the worm. And of course, do dress to impress – nothing wrong with leggings and a t-shirt, but networking is neither the time nor the place.
- Have a goal
Ask yourself why you are going to this event – this should act as your motivator and help keep you focused, especially if you are a little nervous. If your aim is to gain new clients then your attitude will be slightly different than say looking for a new job, so try to have some aims and objectives and you should find your networking is far more focused.