As someone who is ultra-confident sitting in a small setting and talking about things that are important to me – family, work, ambitions, friendships – walking into a room full of strangers (strangers to me but all whom seem to know each other!) and being expected to just casually walk up to one of these beings and start a conversation, is terrifying.
However, I think I’ve found the secret…
As you walk in and take your obligatory tea/coffee/juice (which you know you are going to spill when trying to reach for a handshake or business card) just take a moment to look around the room. You will see packs like wildebeest on the plains – the alpha male talking loudly and preening himself, the females divided by those who follow and those who want to be followed, and the quiet fawns sitting alone waiting to be eaten alive.
So which pack do I want to infiltrate? I say take a deep breath, smile and go for the Alpha (male or female). Get noticed. Ask questions. Always start with a compliment or some knowledge about your pray target, and get them talking about themselves. Not only does this make them feel important it gives you a chance to calm down, get to understand the way they operate, and then, and only then can you go for the kill.
I was at a networking event recently where they had a timer – a bit like speed dating – so you had to work fast. Get the measure of your fellow delegate, ask two key questions and then tackle them head on with what you do and finish by saying “I’ll call you“.
You are never going to be able to tell someone your life history and why you are so fabulous and why they should use your business or service in 3 minutes or even in two hours – so keep it brief, memorable and finish on an action.
And actually, once you’ve been once, and you are the one working the room saying “Hi, love your frock…” take a moment to remember that initial feeling, and help the new kid on the block to feel welcome.
Checklist to remember:
- You are not the only one feeling uneasy, we Brits are not used to singing our own praises.
- You will not get that huge order from one meeting.
- It takes time and energy to do networking productively – stick at it.
- Find different groups to attend – there will be some crossover.
- Use paid and free events and see if there is a different caliber of delegate.
- Find a mentor, someone who can introduce you to the right people.
- Be brave, you are just the same as them and have a lot to offer – you wouldn’t be here otherwise, right?
- Collect as many cards as possible (you’ll never remember all their names).
- Link and follow them all on social media.
- Its as much about building a net work of suppliers and contacts that can help you, as it is about how you can help them.
- Don’t be afraid to say “I think I can help you because…” and make it a real example.
So, next time you walk in that room, chin up, smile and be confident – you are doing great!