Ok we get it, walking into a room full of people you don’t know and engaging them in discussion about your business and theirs can be daunting. Terrifying even. But at Unpreneur, we’ll give you the low down on graduate business networking and why you should face the fear.
It’s OK to Be Nervous
There are few of us so confident that networking doesn’t cause even the tiniest of nervous flutters. You’ve walked in, stabbed yourself with the pin on the badge and are standing looking lost and seriously considering turning around and walking right back out.
Relax. See it for what it is. A way to broaden your professional circle in a room full of people who are there trying to do the same thing.
The Main Benefits of Business Networking
Apart from the interesting chats, freebies (ALL the pens) and, at some events, delicious food, here are the main benefits of networking:
- Helps to build your confidence
- Builds really useful connections for your business
- Helps you increase awareness of your business
- Recruit the right help from others to assist you in developing that business
- A chance to share what you’ve learned on your business journey and get their insight
- Discuss issues you’re facing and collaborate on solutions
- A great way to meet and recruit potential new business partners, suppliers and employees
- Lastly and most importantly, they’re a great way to show your personality, which is integral to your business. People engage with people they like and networking is a great way to facilitate that relationship
Okay, so you now know some of the benefits (and there are many more) to networking. Here’s some advice on how to get the best out of networking events:
Before the Networking Event
- Ask for a copy of the delegates list well in advance – this will give you time to do some research on who’s coming and time to jot down any questions you may have, or target who you think would be useful to speak with.
- Plan your travel arrangements in advance – give yourself plenty of time to get there – don’t arrive stressed and sweaty
During the Networking Event
- Be brave.
- Ignore roles or titles and speak to as many people as you can regardless of whether you think they’re ‘out of your league’.
- Don’t come with an aggressive sales pitch.
- Don’t speak to people like you’re actively selling to them. This is about builidng relationships.
- When you’re speaking to someone and they give you their business card, discreetly write a short description on the business card of the person who gave you it. You may receive lots of business cards and there’s nothing worse when you want to draw upon one of your new contacts and you’ve lost the context.
- If asked about a competitor’s company and your thoughts regarding them, start with a positive slant: ‘They’re great at what they do, however, this is where we’re different/better’ – the business world is much smaller than you think.
After the Networking Event
- Light interactions on social media. Don’t be pushy, just reach out with a friendly message or follow.
- Look at who your new acquaintances are engaging with on social media and follow them too.
- When adding people on Linkedin, ensure you add a wee description of how you met them e.g. ‘Hi, it was great to meet you at the chair and table event, I enjoyed talking to you about…let’s keep in touch’. Generic Linkedin invites are rude.
To build your confidence and get to know the best events for you to attend, say ‘yes’ to everything in the early stages, check out the events your friends, acquaintances, ‘frenemies’ are going and get involved!
You learn by doing. Be brave.