As an entrepreneur, networking is one of the most important things you can do. Now let’s be clear, the goal of networking is not to build a rolodex of various names in industries across the board, but instead the purpose of networking is to build a key network of people who are relevant to your current business. It sounds simple enough, but networking is probably one of the biggest challenges faced by entrepreneurs, especially young ones. Have no fear though, I have compiled five tips that will at least you get you in the room and in the right direction.
1) Go to Relevant Events- Finding good events to go to is the most important step in networking. It is also, unfortunately, the step most people struggle with. Now let us be clear, there is no shortage of events that boast networking in their title. However many of these events aren’t that relevant, especially when they are catered to the youth. I mean let’s face it, it’s great to meet your peers and share ideas, but the real goal of networking is to turn a relationship into dollars- and that may be difficult when you are all looking for money. Choose events, where there are more established business people such as chamber of commerce events and fundraisers. Yes, there is an initial cost with most of these, but the return on your investment is higher than the youth networking event where everyone is clamoring to meet the three speakers. In fact, I suggest setting a monthly budget for these types of events.
2) Know What You Are Talking About- Once you have moved into the realm of more VIP networking events, you will learn that knowing your field is essential. After all, you have gone from playing at the playground with your peers to sitting in the principal’s office. This means you must not only know what you are talking about, but also be confident in it. If someone challenges you, it is not the time to meekly bow down, but instead show your mental prowess by challenging them back. In order to gain mutual respect in these environments, people have to understand that even if you don’t know it all, you have the basic theories and principles that will make you successful in business- once they see that there may be a contract on the horizon.
3) Find a Connector- To create a good social network, you must first have a connector. Connectors are successful in their field, have an extensive concentration of other networks relevant to you, and, most importantly, don’t mind introducing you around. To find a connector, in a room you should identify who everyone seems to be talking to. The connector typically doesn’t move around the room that much, instead people come to them. Once you have taken the time to identify them, the rest of your evening should be spent getting to know them. Finding a connector will save you a lot of work, since they already probably know anyone you are interested in knowing.
4) Stand Out- The worst thing you can do is go to a networking event and blend; you should always find a way to stand out. Now this doesn’t mean that it is ok to be gaudy or loud, but it does mean it is ok to give yourself a little added character. So perhaps you wear a great tie, watch or cufflinks. If you are a woman, perhaps it means you wear a bright color with some popping accessory- whatever you chose to do, just make sure it tastefully stands out. If you are naturally a wallflower, this is essential for you. After all, this outfit may be the reason someone decides to spark a conversation with you.
5) Get Personal- Over the years I have learned people do business with people they like. So what does this mean for you? It means that you should network with a goal of friendship. When meeting someone don’t spend all your time talking about your business and theirs, find out a personal aspect of their life that you can relate to, see if you have a common hobby or have recently read the same book. If you can find a common nexus, you have just raised your chances for another meeting with the individual, and potentially, turned them into a new client as well.
Author: CORDIE AZIZ