When it comes to running a business, many people don’t like the networking aspect. It takes a lot of effort and can be difficult or uncomfortable. It’s easy to think that a good product or business idea is all you need to get started.
I’m a big proponent of networking as it’s had a huge impact on my life. Originally from Poland and having moved to Australia eight years ago, I knew hardly anyone. Certainly not people who could help me navigate a new culture and the expectations that come with it—especially in the workplace and in business.
Networking really helped me to quickly build relationships. Attending events where I’m really passionate about the topic, I’ve met some amazing, like-minded people. Some of them are now my clients and even my best friends! They are always encouraging and mentoring me to help me get where I want to be, and I know I couldn’t do this alone.
A few years ago my editor interviewed Pip Marlow, the CEO of Microsoft. I had never met Pip personally nor spoke to her. So when I recently attended an event where she was speaking, I introduced myself to her to put a face behind the Leaders in Heels brand. Later, when I launched the crowdfunding campaign for my Make Your Mark notebooks, I emailed her. Guess what—she became one of the biggest supporters of the campaign. It wouldn’t have happened if I was just another unknown person wanting something from her. So here are my 9 networking tips to help you get out there and make yourself visible:
1. Find networks
Attend events where you’re truly interested in or passionate about the topic. This will give you something to talk about with the other attendees and the speakers—a common ground where you can start to make that connection and develop it from there.
If you can’t get out much, find groups online that gather around the same interests as yours. It could be anything from online marketing or business networking. You never know who you’ll meet who might help you along your way. The key is to be genuine and to offer up your own knowledge also.
2. Bring a friend
I am naturally an introvert and do not like talking about myself or approaching strangers. To overcome this, I like to bring a friend with me. He or she should be someone who is open to meeting new people, but isn’t prone to bragging about themselves. It’s so much easier to start a conversation when I can have a friend introduce me: “This is Kasia from Leaders in Heels, and she runs this AMAZING community for women…”. It sounds better than if I’m the one who says “Hi, I’m Kasia and I run a community for women…”.
Of course, I do the same for her. It works!
3. Do your research
Before the event, look up the speakers. Learn about their history and the causes that are dear to their heart. Again, this will give you more common ground and conversation topics so that you can approach them with something more than “I really liked your speech”.
4. Have a 10-second pitch
Pitch about yourself and what you do. Make it interesting, and sounding uniquely you. That way when anyone asks you what you do, you’re prepared. Having a longer version clocking in at about half a minute can help also. That way if you hook them with your initial pitch, you have a longer one to reel them in!
5. Have a professionally designed business card
I designed my first business card and it was a big, big mistake. I didn’t leave enough white space and overall the card was a bit clunky, the font too big—and that was only two of the problems. Every time I was giving away my business card I felt I wasn’t proud of my business and it was actually affecting my confidence and how I felt about the product that I was offering.
6. Don’t make it all about selling yourself
I think about networking as giving. People love talking about their businesses and lives, so I am there to listen and see if I can help or connect them to other people that can help.
7. Be polite
I can’t stress this enough. Don’t push in if the person you want to speak to is already in a conversation with someone else—wait your turn if you have particular topics or questions you want to ask. Joining a conversation is fine, just don’t hijack it.
8. Use CamCard
I have got this tip from a serious networker Rebecca Saunders, CEO of The Delicatessen. CamCard enables me to scan, organise and filter all the business cards I receive at networking events. It syncs straight into my phone contacts and from there, into my CRM, saving hours in data entry time. The process is extremely simple – at the end of each networking event I spend approx. 30 seconds per business card scanning it with the app on my phone and ensuring that all the details are correct. Easy.
9. Follow up
Do you want to be remembered? Follow up to say ‘hi’, say you want to connect and keep in touch, add them on LinkedIn and keep nurturing that relationship. But do not subscribe them to your database without their permission. This may be considered presumptuous and impolite.
About the author:
This article was written by Kasia Gospos, the Founder and Publisher of Leaders in Heels – a leading Australian online community for professional women created to nurture, inspire and empower female leaders and entrepreneurs.