Networking scares people – it just does.
Walking into a full room, talking to people you don’t know, trying to encapsulate all that you do in a 5 minute conversation can be a little overwhelming. Like anything, when you are prepared, you feel more in control and get better results. Successful networkers are prepared networkers, and being prepared doesn’t take a lot of time. It takes a few minutes to gather your thoughts, envision your desired results, and go for it!
Think of this…
What happens when you go to the grocery store with no list? You buy things you don’t need, forget the things you do need, and overspend because you have no parameters. The same is true for networking. When you walk into a networking opportunity unprepared, you will likely “accept” whatever comes your way and spend too much time talking to people who may not be able to help you and miss out on great opportunities that you never got to.
Preparation can take place minutes before you walk in – in the car, get clear on what your goals are for attending this event. Make sure you understand who you are looking to meet or what you want to share with others to get the results you want. This allows you to have meaningful conversations with people – set yourself apart by having an answer when people ask how they can help you.
Think about the key people you need to build relationships with to be successful and ask for them. Maybe you are looking to connect with young professionals, Business Bankers, or get in front of IT Directors. When people ask how they can help – tell them! “I am looking to meet…” They may not be able to help you then and there but now know what you are working on.
You may have a different “ask” each time you are networking, and that is ok. Your “ask” is based on what you are working on and it’s your job to make sure people know how to help you. Maybe you were looking for “this” and now you are looking for “that.” As long as people know how to help you, they will.
And, by all means, don’t forget to see how you can add value to others in the room. You may have people and resources in your life that would be beneficial to them, so the next time there is a lull in the conversation, turn it over to them and ask, “So, how can I help you?” You may be surprised at how easy it is to help them!