I watched a simple yet profound podcast recently about the art of networking. What stuck in my mind was the speaker telling a story that demonstrated clearly that no one is there to buy, yet everyone is there to sell.
What this taught me was not to turn up at a networking event with a wallet filled with business cards expecting to sell something. It taught me to turn up interested in what others have to say and to do my best to add value.
Here’s an idea. Rather than going to a networking event to get something, how about going to give something? Most people who are there will have something interesting to tell and they are usually busting to tell it.
It’s no secret that networking events can be awkward and often bring on anxiety. One great way of reducing that is to take the heat off yourself which is exactly what will happen if your focus is on helping others.
If you go along with a focus on helping someone else, you’ll not only feel good about yourself, you’ll also be remembered. If you are representing your company brand and hoping to be attractive to job seekers, or even if you are looking for a new job opportunity, imagine how ‘being remembered’ could impact on this.
The best way to build your network and enlist people to help you is by first helping them. If you’re speaking with a salesperson or business owner ask ‘how can I recognize a good prospect for you?’ Or ‘is there someone I can introduce you to’. People feel inclined to help you when you offer to help them. Take an interest in what they do and then use your network, expertise, and connections to help them any way you can.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Dale Carnegie
Preparation is key
Like most things in life a little preparation will help. Think about your strategy before you go. You might focus on the person standing alone looking a little awkward and strike up a conversation. If the event is being run by an organisation you are keen to be affiliated with then connect with the organiser to see if there is anything you can do to assist.
It doesn’t take much to break the ice. A simple smile or open ended question can get the conversation started. Be real, be sincere.
Go prepared with a few simple questions like; ‘what made you choose to come to this event?’ or ‘what type of people are you Chhoping to connect with here?’
It doesn’t have to be hard
Keep in mind, if you are at a networking event then you already have something in common with everyone else there. It is easy to have a conversation with people who you have something in common with.
Perception is key
Mindset will play a big part in how the event feels to you. One of my mentors shared the simplest phrase with me when I was facing difficulty in my life. She said ‘Choose to be Happy’. It stuck with me. You can choose how you look at anything and everything.
Give it a go. Approach your next networking event with a feeling of excitement about discovering someone new who you can add value to. Chances are, you will make a lasting connection.
One of my all-time favourite sayings that I use daily in my coaching work is ‘we bring about what we think about’, a version of Earl Nightingale’s famous quote ‘we become what we think about’.
If you go into an event thinking you will have a great experience and meet interesting people, you will. It’s that simple.
I wish you well!