You either love or hate networking. You either think of it as a fun way to be active in your community, a necessary evil, or a waste of time. To be honest, it can be all those things. Much depends on the way you approach it and whether you buy into the many myths surrounding this age-old method of promoting yourself and your business.
1. It's no longer necessary - LinkedIn has replaced it.
While LinkedIn is a great way to network online, it can be a little indiscriminate. If you have 500+ connections how much actual networking are you doing with them? Even if you are actively engaged with your connections, meeting other local business owners face-to-face makes your company part of the local community.
2. All business owners should network.
Actually no. If you hate networking so much that you dread attending an event, don't do it. Why put yourself through the pain? If you are a nervous, shy, wreck when networking, you're probably doing more harm than good. Find another way to market your business.
3. You have to be a Type A personality.
You are not trying to be the most popular person in the room. In fact, introverts are usually better listeners and listening is a successful strategy when networking.
4. Every networking event is worth attending.
Not true, be selective and only attend events where there will be interesting people you genuinely want to connect with.
5. Networking is about giving out as many cards as you can.
Nope, what a waste of time and money to give cards to people who have no need or desire to buy what you sell. Keep your cards in your pocket until you meet someone card-worthy! Oh, and have the highest quality, best designed cards you can afford, so that when you do give one out the recipient is impressed.
6. The key goal when networking is to sell something.
Unless it's to sell yourself, then no. The likelihood of you selling something at a networking event is remote. You are there to make useful contacts and connections not find customers necessarily. If you do get a customer, that's a bonus.
7. You should talk to as many people as possible.
It's not about numbers it's about quality. If you know someone at the event who is well connected, talk to them first and ask them if they know of anyone you should connect with. In any case, it's less about talking to people and more about listening to them. If you listen twice as much as you talk you'll be far more effective.
8. You need a good elevator pitch.
People at an event who reel off a well-rehearsed elevator speech almost always sound cheesy. That's not to say you shouldn't be able to explain what you do and what you sell concisely in 15-20 seconds, but tailor it to your audience. Make it relevant and authentic.
9. It's a competition.
Don't be the person running around trying to meet everyone - the person to whom networking is a sport. You know the type, it's that person constantly looking over people's shoulders to see whether there is someone better, or more important, to meet. It reeks of desperation and is ineffective. Networking is about building relationships, extending the range of your brand and building credibility.
10. Networking can only be done face-to-face.
Number one in our list promoted face-to-face networking, but the online variety is also important. In today's social media hyped world, networking can be done on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and just about anywhere else. Remember, the same rules apply.
Next time you attend a networking event, relax - take all the pressure off by removing any set goals such as meeting a certain number of people, collecting/distributing x number of cards, making a number of appointments, or selling something. Mix and mingle, listen to what people have to say, be helpful, and offer assistance. Give more than you take and you will soon discover that business has a habit of finding you.