You have set up your own business. Your idea is going to conquer the world! You spent ages deliberating over your business plan, decided your price, product or service and how you were going to brand it. You designed your business cards, letterheads and logo, printed off leaflets. You thought you were all ready to go, but there is one key ingredient missing: Customers!
Now you can sit and wait for the phone to start ringing from the Yellow Page advert you placed or the expensive online directory or wait for people to respond from the direct mailing and the email you have sent out. You can rearrange your office furniture, organise your stationary, write up to do lists…
you can get out there and meet people.
There are a number of good reasons to network when you are starting up your business.
- You need to increase the number of people you know, so that more people know that you are out there
- You may meet potential customers or someone who knows your ideal client.
- But more importantly you might meet someone who can help you.
The quickest way to become more business-like is to spend time with business people. Remember you don’t have to get it right the first time. You don’t have to know all the answers. I learnt so much by the questions that stumped me initially when I started networking. I have also gained so much from the friendships and free advice that I have been given.
So here are 5 ways to overcome any nerves you may have about networking.
- Remember the people you meet networking are just people, they have families and lives outside their business. They have good and bad days too. Don’t put people on pedestals! There is a person behind the attire. Networking is about getting to know people that you like and trust.
- Be prepared for the meeting. Each networking meeting is slightly different. It is a good idea to find out the format of the meeting. Email or phone the Group Leader to get more details and visit the networking group’s website before you go. Make sure you have your business cards and literature with you. Double-check the timing and the location of the meeting.
- Prepare a short introduction to yourself- There is a good chance that you will be called upon to tell the group a bit about yourself. You may have as little as 40 seconds to do it. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time you do it. You will learn from other people, but it is worth working out a script for yourself, starting and ending with your name and business name. If you think you will be very nervous, write it down. Practise saying it out aloud and time it. If you have only a minute, make sure what you have to say is under a minute.
- Breathe – It may sound obvious, but before you enter and networking event, it is worth stopping before you go in and take a deep breath! Notice where your feet are and how they feel in your shoes (very simple technique to ground yourself and bring yourself back into the present!) Take another breath, stand tall and put a smile on your face, then enter.
- Remember that not all networking groups will suit you. You want to belong to a group that welcomes you and makes you feel comfortable. Your first networking experience is not how all networking experiences are. It is worth trying out a few to see which ones suit your personality best. Don’t let one bad experience put you off. You will get pushy people who shove their card in your hand and bombard you with a sales pitch before they have even asked you who you are, but not everyone is like that. Some people feel better within a structured environment and some people enjoy just mingling.
I belong to 4Networking because I like the flexiblity and friendliness of it and I run Guildford’s Ladies Who Latte group, which is a free networking group for women. There are plenty of networking meetings around, I could easily go to a breakfast meeting in the morning, morning group, lunch time group and an evening event every day of the week without having to travel more than a few miles! I would recommend that you find a group you like and go regularly so that you build up relationships with the people you meet. When you go regularly it feels more like walking into a room full of friends than networking. Have fun!
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