Word of mouth and referrals from networking are your chief marketing tools. Social media offers terabytes of advice on what not to do online. But what is the etiquette around touting yourself and your brand when you are face to face with real people?
This is where the trust is built and the relationship happens.
Here are five things for the introverted beginner to remember about getting out there and getting known.
1. Know why you are going to the event or gathering. Who is it aimed at, what are they there for; will you be talking to clients or competitors? Collaboration and sharing is useful and encouraged in some networking groups - in others only one member of each professional area is invited. Do your research and know what you are walking into.
2. Try a variety of events and organisations to see what they offer and the general mood and buzz of the conversation. You may have to pay a joining fee but often the first event is free so take advantage of it and get to know the level of professionalism involved in the management of the event. Look for ones with some structure that makes the time invested more valuable.
3. Ensure you are well dressed, on-time and meet as many new people as is possible and polite within the time frame. Look them in the eye and shake hands firmly. Impressions and judgements are made in seconds and you don’t know who that person is, or who they know that you need to be introduced to. I also always wear a brooch which is my name spelt out in silver wire – it’s a great ice breaker and ensures everyone knows my name and isn’t trying to remember it after two minutes.
4. If you are feeling nervous about making a spiel – don’t. Ask people about themselves and treat the evening like any social event where you make chat and get to know others. In a recent conversation, it turned out that the budding florist (excuse the pun) I was talking to had given up a job in International Affairs and a job at the UN to follow her heart. She planned to use flowers as a way of spreading peace in a different way. I was so engrossed in her story I was astonished when she told me I was a great coach and asked for my card. People have fascinating stories…I was only listening!
5. If you make a strong contact and have a great conversation, don’t forget to follow it up. Just a one-line email to suggest a meet up for coffee if appropriate can be enough. Others may appreciate a handwritten card. Many people are using LinkedIn to follow-up by extending an invite to connect and this can be a professional way of getting in touch.
Next post: Five don’ts of face-to-face networking