Everyone knows that networking is important. The problem, however, is that most people were never taught HOW to do it!
This generally leads to fear, avoidance, and anxiety.
As a shy-introvert, I could totally relate to the anxiety and fear!
Over the years, I learned of 3 key areas that will help you overcome the fears, and start growing your network. WITH CONFIDENCE!
Let’s start by addressing some of those fears.
You walk into a large room filled with strangers.
There’s an overwhelming roar of conversations echoing throughout the venue.
It looks as though everyone has already “circled-up” and fully-engaged with one another.
You feel like a complete outsider! Lost. Afraid. And, anxiety increasing with every passing minute!
You think about leaving. After all, no one has even noticed your presence! Here’s your shot! The exit door is within sight! But then, you remember why you came.
You have a powerful offering that will change people’s lives for the better! They just don’t know about it.
You’ve spent dozens of hours practicing your “pitch!” In fact, you practiced it the entire car ride to the event!
You have a stack of freshly-printed business cards ready for distribution.
You finally gather the courage to break into a small circle of attendees.
But there’s a problem… New fears arise!
How do I start the conversation?
What if they don’t like me?
What if I come across as “too pushy?”
How do I get past the “small-talk?”
What did I get myself into?
One of the guys just keeps talking about himself!
How do I get away?
I could be doing more important things, what if this was all a big waste of time?
Does any of this sound familiar?
Let’s take a look at the root of where these fears are coming from.
Reasons we experience fear
First, fear is caused by the unknown. It’s the same reason why many children are afraid of the dark.
They can’t see, and are unsure of what’s in there!
When we enter a room full of strangers, that’s just like the dark room to a child.
We don’t know what to expect!
The unknown causes fear.
Second, fear is caused by a lack of preparedness.
Imagine being a kid again, and getting called to the front of your 8th grade class to present a book report.
But… you haven’t finished reading the book yet!
Just like that book report on the book we haven’t read, being in a situation we aren’t prepared for, causes fear.
So how do we overcome fear?
After many years of trial and error (including many cringe-worthy moments), I’ve identified 3 areas that will help you overcome your fear, and help you grow your network like a seasoned pro!
The 3 Keys…
Key #1: Have the Right Mindset
Out of the three keys, mindset is the most important!
Your mindset determines your activity, and your activity determines your results!
Let’s take a look at what networking is really about.
Improper mindset: What networking isn’t…
Networking isn’t about going to events and handing out a bunch of business cards trying to “sell” people stuff.
Networking isn’t about collecting names, numbers, and email addresses to “pitch your deal.”
Networking isn’t about being a big phony and trying to impress people with your accomplishments.
Networking isn’t about talking people’s ears off.
Networking isn’t about seeing how much you can get for yourself.
Proper mindset: What networking is…
Proper networking is about meeting new people to build genuine relationships.
Proper networking is about learning more about others and their businesses, so that you can connect them with individuals who would benefit from their products or services.
Proper networking is about being you! This includes your unique gifts, talents, abilities, hardships, successes, experiences, and insights!
Proper networking is more about listening and learning, than it is about talking and telling!
Proper networking is about providing value to others, sharing resources, growing your business, and making a greater impact on your community!
So, what are the best ways to network?
There are two areas where you need to take action… In-person at local events, and online via social media.
Key #2 Engage at Local Events
It’s important to network face-to-face, because it quickly generates a high level of trust and rapport!
There really is no substitute for shaking someone’s hand and having a genuine conversation.
Regularly attending local events ,raises your visibility in the community which increases “familiarity.”
People have a tendency to trust those they are familiar with.
So, where do you find places to network?
Here are just a few to get you started…
- www.meetup.com – Here, you’ll find interest groups ranging from business networking, book clubs, bible studies, walking groups, singles groups, cycling groups, movie fanatics, and virtually anything that people enjoy doing!
- www.eventbrite.com – Search local events by category, including networking referral groups, conferences, workshops, and various corporate events.
- Facebook groups – Search for networking groups or neighborhood groups nearby, and start building the relationship online!
- Chamber of Commerce – Most cities will have a chamber, or Board of Trade to help grow local businesses. This is a good place to connect and start collaborating with other business leaders.
- Organizations / Associations – Groups like Kiwanis, Rotary, are great places to meet like-minded servant-leaders.
- Referral Groups – These are structured organizations focused on sharing leads and qualified referrals to fellow group members. Examples are, Business Network International (BNI), Amspirit, Goldstar, Letip, Women In Business, and many more.
Face to face meetings generate trust the fastest. However, most people have short-term memories, and easily forget you without regular contact.
We’re all familiar with the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
To stay top of mind, use social media!
Key #3 Engage Online via Social Media
After meeting someone in-person and building some rapport, I recommend asking if they would be interested in connecting on social media.
This gives you both the opportunity to learn more about one another, get a feel for what they are about, continue finding common interests, and build the relationship!
This allows you to stay top of mind and keep to door open for referrals!
My preferred platforms are:
- LInkedIn – Over 500,000,000 users are on LinkedIn! There are many benefits including a full-profile, which is not available on any other social media platform! Post engagement has improved significantly, and the advanced search feature provides the ability to directly access very specific people that fit your criteria!
- Facebook – Still the BIG DOG when it comes to having the most users, daily activity, live videos, and relatively affordable advertising costs. The abundance of local networking FB groups, along with the ability to create your own, make this a must!
- Instagram – A platform more frequently utilized by the next generation, make this the place to reach millennials on a daily basis! The simple interface and visual nature make it easy to scroll, “like,” and engage with your followers!
When it comes to intentional use of social media to grow your network and brand, I recommend only posting what you want the public to see.
There are also ways to customize the individual post privacy, and ways to customize your newsfeed, but that’s another article.
Whether you are seeking a new job, or connecting with potential referral partners, people will look at your social media profiles to “spy” on you anyway. So you might as well post things that help your brand!
Social media is a great way to continue growing relationships you started in-person.
It is also a great way to connect first online, start the relationship on a public post, then continue it on private message, then on to a phone call or even a coffee meeting!
Have the right mindset about networking. Focus on building the relationship. Build trust, and serve others first!
Meet new people at live events! Local networking opportunities are endless when you learn to connect with the various groups and organizations listed above.
Continue growing the relationships and stay top of mind using your social media platforms!
Knowing these 3 Keys, helps alleviate the many fears of the unknown when it comes to networking.
Identify 3 local events you can attend within the next 30 days
Make a conscious effort to utilize your social media platforms to build better relationships.
Find ways to serve first, and without expecting anything in return.
If you found value in this article, share it with someone who would benefit! It’s all part of sharing resources to improve your business, and community!