Make the room work for you
Make the Room Work for You
In 1984 a survey in the New York Times asked people what they were most frightened of. Death came...
Make the Room Work for You
In 1984 a survey in the New York Times asked people what they were most frightened of. Death came third! The top two fears in the survey were walking into a room full of strangers and speaking in public.
Networking events are increasingly seen as an essential part of the marketing strategy of any business, yet most people still dread the prospect of approaching people they don’t know and engaging in small talk. That discomfort is heightened if they don’t have a clear purpose for doing so, other than collecting as many business cards as possible, and end up swapping elevator pitches with people who are clearly not prospects and who are only focused on selling to them.
In fact the biggest problem with networking events is that the majority of people go there to sell; a strange strategy when you consider that, as a result, no one is in buying mode. Networking events work when people go to engage with each other, learn from each other and develop advocates, rather than using them as an opportunity to ‘work the room’, swap business cards and pitch.
Rather than simply avoiding events and missing out on the genuine opportunities they offer, here are three tips that will help you network with much more confidence and enjoy a much greater return on the time and money invested.
Tip 1: Be Courageous
Why are we so frightened of meeting new people? Personally, I blame my mum! Throughout my childhood years my mother always used to warn me, “Don’t talk to strangers!”
This childhood fear of strangers is very powerful, especially when combined with a fear of humiliation or rejection. Whenever we are put into a position where we are expected to meet new people, the adrenaline starts to flow and the nerves kick in.
It may make perfect sense to tell a young child to avoid strangers, but why do we carry this fear into adulthood? The situations faced by children and adults are very different and this advice is certainly redundant in most business or social engagements as an adult.
When was the last time that you went to a networking event and saw someone either being humiliated or being rejected? The first step to take when approaching any networking event is to rationalise the fear of approaching strangers and remind ourselves why they have attended the event. In most cases that will be to be to meet new people, so what are you frightened of?
Tip 2: Be Committed
So you’re at a networking event, you’ve overcome your fears and started to talk to people and develop a few interesting conversations. What happens next is the key to making networking a success for you.
The easy approach is to enjoy a pleasant conversation with someone you meet, you say goodbye, move on and never see them again for the rest of your life. But what is that going to achieve?
Networking is about building relationships, where you help others and they help you over time. If you don’t follow up with people after meeting them at an event, how can you possibly build a relationship with them?
If you want networking to benefit you, you need to be committed to the process. That commitment starts before the event you are attending, extends to the time you are actually at the event and keeps going even after you have left.
Pursue the relationship, not the sale, when you meet someone new. Be committed to them by showing an interest in their challenges and their goals. If you show commitment to your network by supporting them, they will naturally want to support you in return.
Tip 3: Be Patient
Networking success comes from building relationships over a period of time. Consistent networking results can only come as people develop trust in you and an understanding of how they can help you.
If you are looking for people to refer or talk positively about you, they need to be able to recognise opportunities for you and think of you when those opportunities arise. That doesn’t tend to happen too often with people we have only briefly met.
When you first meet someone you can have no way of knowing how they may be able to help you, or to whom they may be able to connect you. You will not know when they may be the key contact you need or what they could do for you in future.
It may be that there is no clear connection between the two of you, yet they could be the ideal person to refer to someone else in your network or you may know the perfect person to help them.
A name badge or a business card is not going to tell you this. It takes time to speak to people, to ask them questions and get to know them before it becomes clear how they fit into your network.
Following these simple tips will make networking not only a more enjoyable and less nerve-wracking experience for you; it will also make it far more productive. Focus on having fun, finding people with whom you have a rapport and building relationships. As you develop a network over time you will have people you can turn to as advocates for your business and who will refer you happily.
Don’t worry about working the room. Build relationships and allow things to happen over time and the room will work for you.