Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What Do I Think About Networking?

Inspired by this post by Naomi Simson founder of where she said that when she walks into a room full of strangers at a networking opportunity she thinks: “Goody, a whole room of potential new friends”.

I like that as a potential thought, especially when the more introverted part of me is really thinking: “Goody, they catered this event really well and do you think that anyone will notice if I just stand in the corner, don’t talk to anyone and attack the canapĂ© waitress each time she exits the kitchen?”

I love the topic of networking though and so I thought I’d list some other things you can get into the habit of thinking at a networking event (to overcome some of your perceived weaknesses):

If you’re an introvert challenge yourself by thinking:

• “I can stop networking as soon as I’ve met 15 people and exchanged business cards”
• “I can stop networking as soon as I’ve found out 5 pieces of personal information about people (children’s names, hobbies, company goals) and written them on the backs of those people’s business cards
• “I can stop networking as soon as I’ve got reasons to write 10 hand written cards tomorrow when I get back to work to people I’ve met here tonight”

If you’ve got the opposite problem and you know you talk a little (ok a lot) at these sorts of events, challenge yourself by thinking:

• “Over 50% of my night tonight will be spent silent” (remember the letters in silent spell listen!)
• “I will end every sentence about myself tonight with a question for the person I’m talking to”
• “How can I limit my elevator pitch to a fabulous 30 seconds?”

And if you have my problem and you’re overly fascinated by the munchies and cocktails on offer, rephrase the above goals so that you can eat one piece of food per 2 business cards exchanged.

Ultimately, in my mind, what I try to think when I walk into a networking situation is:

• “How many of these people don’t know about my business?” (and will by the end of tonight)
• “How many of these people are potential clients?”
• “How many of these people know potential clients?”
• “Who in the room can I become or refer a client for?” (reciprocity works wonders and the best way to get a referral is to give one!)
• “Who in this room has done something I’d like to do” (ie: who can I learn from?)

Getting your thoughts straight before you head into the event really helps you clarify your goals for the night and remember, of course you can also go along to an event like this just to have fun. Don’t be afraid to forget the strategy for a night (but take business cards just in case)!

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