For a lot of people, the term ‘networking’ brings to mind a room full of pushy salesmen shoving business cards in each other’s hands while ‘working the room’. As a business owner, networking events can feel like a chore, one you’d happily swap for cleaning the bathroom grout with a toothbrush.
The good news is that networking doesn’t have to fill you with dread. It can be an enjoyable experience, one that connects you with like minded people, builds your confidence and helps your business thrive. It’s all about how you approach it.
Do your research.
If you’re attending an industry event, try and find out who else is going, then think about who you’d like to chat to and why. Is there someone who’s work inspires you? A supplier who’s product you’d like to know more about? Having a strategic approach to the event will help you get the most out of it.
Creative folk catching up at Denfair 2017 (Image: Denfair)
Dress the part.
Always arrive on time and make sure you look polished and professional. Interior design is an aesthetic field and you can’t expect people to trust you with designing a beautiful space if you look like you wrestled a bear on the way to the function.
Don’t be daunted.
If you’re an introvert, you may find networking events a little daunting. Angelique Petz from Social Media Mania says it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in feeling that way, “Approach an unfamiliar face. They’re probably feeling the same as you, it may have taken a lot of courage for them to turn up,” advises Angelique.
Make a great first impression.
When you meet someone, look them in the eyes and introduce yourself confidently. You need to show that you know who you are and are proud of what you offer, without being arrogant.
Have meaningful conversations.
Danielle Price hosts networking events through her business She Will Shine and encourages attendees to focus on a few meaningful conversations rather than 20 shallow ones. “Remember, you don't need to meet everyone in the room. A deeper conversation with one or two new connections will be far more beneficial and enjoyable!” says Danielle.
Focus on meaningful conversations. (image: She Will Shine)
Have you ever been chatting to someone only to have them constantly looking over your shoulder to spot someone more ‘important’? It’s not a good feeling. Fiona Johnston from Peach Business Management says the most important thing you can do is listen to someone, “People will remember that you gave them the time to be heard. Showing genuine interest in someone else’s business is good manners and good karma,” advises Fiona.
Did you promise to get in touch after the event? Follow through with a friendly email or call. Networking is about building ongoing, mutually beneficial relationships so you need to ensure you’re not just focusing on what you can get out of the relationship but also the support and value you can offer the other person.
Running your own business can be isolating and overwhelming. Building professional relationships can help you achieve your business dream. It’s all about getting out there and being your authentic, confident and respectful self. So go forth and network, you might even love it.