Networking events. Do you have a love hate relationship with them? Do you dread working the room, exchanging cards or being caught in a corner with a self absorbed business boaster? I used to see networking as a shmoozing fest and a bit intimidating. But no longer! I now see networking events as an opportunity to meet new people who share a similar interest or mindset. I try to attend a networking meeting every few months. I even have started hosting my own events because I see the value of creating a space for women entrepreneurs to meet, socialize and support each other.
If you are on the fence about the networking game, here are my five reasons to jump in. I believe networking can be a game changer for your business.
1) Cultivate Relationships. Networking events are a great way to meet people who are like minded and share a similar passion or purpose. You may surprise yourself at how many interesting people you can actually meet. Before you attend any networking event, set a goal to meet three people well. You will surely meet more, but try to spend quality time getting to know just a handful of people in the room. Ask questions, listen and offer help. Don't just talk about yourself but share your knowledge and expertise to gain trust. Ask, "how can I support you?" Your hope should be to build relationships that can result in a client, a referral, a partnership, a friendship or an alliance. These relationships take time so don't expect to leave one mixer with your biz besties. Follow up and connect afterwards. This is where the bonding magic happens.
2) Be Inspired. Sitting behind your desk all day as a solo entrepreneur can get boring and stale. We all need a break to mingle with others and share conversation. This helps get the creative juices flowing and sharpen your skills. I love to hear what others are doing - their new products, new launches, new branding, new ideas. This sharing of information creates a contagious energy that is inspiring and motivating for all.
3) Boost Confidence. It is daunting to enter a room full of people and introduce yourself over and over. But it also is great practice to get your story our there and feel confident sharing it. Nail down your elevator pitch and messaging statement. Keep it short, concise and clear. Don't ramble on and on because you will lose people. The more you do it, the more natural it will become.
4) Get Noticed. The more networking events and meetings you attend, the more visible you and your brand become. The trick is to continue to listen and offer useful information and tips to others. Be of service! People always remember the givers. All of a sudden, you become the go-to expert in your industry. Your name and business is remembered and referred. That is the reputation that you hope for!
5) Learning Opportunity. I am an information junkie! I love to watch webinars, read books and blog posts but there is nothing like learning in a face to face environment. Networking events are great places to hear live from fellow entrepreneurs how they work and flourish in their businesses. You can learn first hand how they develop new products, how they launch online, how they gain new clients, who they hired as their virtual assistant or web designer, what productivity apps are they using....the lessons are endless. The key is to ask questions and also share your top tips. I have gained so much knowledge and saved myself so much time from these conversations.
Connections. Community. Creativity. Growth. These are what I gain from continued networking. What do you think? Are you more open to attending a networking event? I encourage you to try and look for events in your area. Research local networking groups. I am an active member of BIG, a women's empowerment organization, but also attend events with Lady Savant and Savor. Also check out Eventbrite for browsing events and as a tool for hosting events. Meetup is another valuable resource for finding events at a local level. Just get started one networking event at a time and see where it can take you and your business. Happy networking!