Situations like this create a lot of pressure, stress and anxiety, and suddenly that huge, ugly, one-eyed monster we often see in networking and business called ‘Self-Doubt’ comes barging in. Self-Doubt doesn’t care about your hair, your outfit or your elevator speech. He is looking for a breach in your confidence as you start hearing yourself say…
“What if my competitor has already found the people in this room that haven’t heard about my business, or even worse, the people who have heard and wanted to purchase a product from them instead of me?”
“What if they are offering a promo/discount/first born that I didn’t think about?”
“Are they nice? Are they smack talking other reps? I don’t want to have to slash any more tires on my way out!”
As a networking facilitator and a small business/marketing coach, my biggest piece of advice is for you to march up to Self-Doubt and poke him in the one good eye he has. Make him go away. You have every right to be in that room networking and to work it as well (if not better) than anyone else.
When It Comes To Working The Room
Be Yourself: People connect with you first and then the product. There could be five business competitors in the room but that doesn’t matter. I have never seen a house being purchased, a major financial deal initiated and then secured or a chiropractic treatment done right there at a first encounter. This is the time for you to say ‘hello’ to another person so you can gather business cards so you can email back and forth so you can confirm a coffee date so you can potentially talk about business so that you can set up another meeting so you can go through it in more detail. Phew– do you see just how long that last sentences is? Even if your ‘competitor’ spoke to someone before you, there are a great number of steps that need to successfully happen before a business transaction occurs.
Pay Attention: It’s hard to connect when you are not focussed on the person you are talking too. Don’t let shiny objects interrupt your conversation.
Ditch Your Friends: You’re here to meet new people. Plan to go out with your friends after the event – you can discuss who you met and if there is someone you can connect them too.
Ditch The Crazies: Have you ever been cornered by someone that wants to talk to you about their nine cats, or their grandchild’s successful potty training session? Don’t let them make the most out of YOUR networking opportunity. Ditch them… in a very polite way. This is when you say, “This is fascinating, I have your business card, let’s connect later”, smile and back away, perhaps show them that shiny object I mentioned earlier.
Know Your Product: It’s hard to position you as the person who knows about their industry when you don’t know about your industry. Treat all the information about your business like a final exam, look at it, know it, memorize it. Be aware of new trends and new products. If you don’t know the answer, say you will get the information and follow through. It’s okay if you don’t know, but it’s not okay if you don’t follow through.
Size Doesn’t Matter: Networking isn’t about the size of the stack of business cards you walk away with. It’s better to have made five solid contacts then to have fifty new business cards that are going to add to your collection of other business cards you’ve done nothing with. And please, if you think the right answer is to plop everyone’s email address onto your newsletter distribution list with out getting permission, I implore you, think again.