Tomorrow I’m heading out to Lima, Ohio for the 5th Annual Social Media Week Lima conference. I’m extra excited because it’s only two hours from home (I don’t have to fly!), I finally get to meet someone I’ve known online for a few years, and it’s the perfect size event for networking! Not too large, not to small, but just right!
Networking use to intimidate the heck out of me. Especially when I’d attend an event where I didn’t know more than one or two people tops – much like this one. What do I say? what do I do? How do I act? What if they don’t like me? Those were the things that went through my head and, sometimes, prevented me from networking at all. But that was then, and this is now.
What changed? I’ll tell you what changed. I realized I was making networking all about me, rather than all about those I was meeting and “hoping” to chat with. But that’s not how it should be!
Networking should always be about the other person! Who doesn’t want to have a conversation with someone who is focused on them? Someone who wants to know about who they are, their business, and what’s going on in their world? I know I’d much rather have a conversation with someone who is interested in me, and doesn’t only go on and on and on about what they do. The idea is to get to know the other person. Learn about them, their business and how you might be able to help them before you start telling them about yourself and what you do. Chances are, they will eventually ask you about you and your business, so you’ll have your chance. But if they don’t, no worries. You’ve at least started a conversation and opened the door to getting to know them.Networking should be all about them, NOT all about you!Click To Tweet
Here are a few tips for making networking all about “them” instead of just about you:
- Introduce yourself! “Hi, I’m Terry, Terry Green!” (not “Hi, I’m Terry Green of BizEase Support Solutions.” That will come later.
- Ask questions! Ask them where they are from, or what brought them to this particular conference. That might lead to further discussion about who they are, what they do, and their business. If you don’t know who they are and what they do, how do you know you want to do business with them?
- When having a conversation with someone, don’t be a “conversation stealer!” A good example is, if someone tells you they went to Italy, don’t say “Oh, I went there too,” and start talking about your experience. Instead, ask them where they went or what they enjoyed most about the trip. It’s OK to say you went there too, or you’ve always wanted to go there, but then … immediately turn the conversation back to them.
- Don’t be afraid to approach a group of people sitting at a table or standing together chatting. Just ask them if they mind if you join them. Most people will almost always say “Not at all,” or “Please do!” If they are having a private conversation, they’ll tell you.
- One great way to “meet” people BEFORE you get to the conference is to connect with them online and introduce yourself. That way … when you do meet in person, you have a starting point. Many conferences (like this one) will set up a Facebook group before the conference to keep attendees in the know about what will be going on, introduce the speakers, and let attendees do a little pre-conference networking. I’ve connected with several of the speakers on LinkedIn and Twitter, and already have a couple of conversations lined up.
- Take lots of business cards. But! Don’t go around asking everyone for their card or shoving yours in their face. It might sound counter-productive to networking, but if someone wants your business card, they’ll ask for it. And, only ask for business cards from those who have expressed an interest in connecting with you, or someone you really want to follow up with. The thing to remember is … if you take someone’s business card, you are saying “I am going to be following up with you!” So make sure you do. Do NOT add them to your mailing list unless they specifically ask you to do so. DO send them an email within 24 hours, and add them to your follow-up sequence!
These are just a few of the things I’ve implemented to make networking a lot less intimidating. Do you have any networking tips that work for you? If you do, please share them in the comments. I’m always open to new ways to make networking easier!