Painless Networking for CEOs: Tips for Thorough Preparation
Boost your confidence and get the most out of networking by following these tips.
Have you attended a networking event only to feel like you didn’t get much from it? Do you ever feel uncomfortable or anxious at a networking event? If you said, “yes”, that’s okay! Many entrepreneurs and business owners are intimidated by approaching a complete stranger and engaging them in conversation. For some, especially introverts, it can even be terrifying. However, you can feel confident at your next networking event through a little planning and finding what works best for you.Why should you push through your discomfort? Entrepreneurs know that the success of their business relies on making the right connections. Through networking, they can meet new clients, find new talent, and connect with other professionals as a resource or referral. However, they’re often so focused on their business that they don’t make networking a priority or they just plain hate it. A little preparation can make the whole experience relatively painless and often pays off in a big way.
Verity Commercial’s business relies heavily on connections so we spend time developing networking skills. Networking doesn’t come easy to most people and even extroverts who are good at working a room need coaching before going to a networking event. Building confidence takes time and practice so get out there using some of these tips.
- Plan – Take some time to plan before you head out. Ask yourself. Why are you going? What is the purpose? Who will likely attend the event? If you can, get an attendee list and research companies and people using their website or through LinkedIn. Typically, you can get an attendee list if you’re an event sponsor or if it’s a conference. Even if you can’t get a list, research the event sponsors. Most times, you can guess attendees based on event sponsors. Knowing who will be there and who is supporting the event will facilitate a meaningful conversation with people and ease anxiety.
- Establish goals – Understand that thing (or things) you’d like to get out of the event and go for it. If you want to meet a potential client, find someone you know in the room who can make the introduction for you. You may need to connect with X Company as a possible investment partner or Y Bank if you’re seeking a bank loan for your business.
- Connect – The best networkers are “connectors” who give more than they take. They view themselves as a resource for clients and businesses to help solve problems and meet needs. While it’s fine to think about what someone can do for you, you’ll build a lasting relationship by focusing on them.
- Create an elevator pitch – An elevator pitch is a brief statement that succinctly sums up what you do. It’s called an elevator pitch because you should be able to say the statement during a brief elevator ride. Develop a pitch that starts up conversations by defining what you’re about professionally and how you distinguish yourself. Elevator pitches are great for speed networking events or when you need to cover a lot of ground quickly.
- Ask questions – Open-ended questions facilitate conversation and help uncover information about the person or their business. Ask things like; “What does your business do?” “What concerns or worries do you have?”; “What are some of your goals?”; and “What’s most important to you?”. Remember don’t run through the questions like a robot. Give the person time to respond and listen carefully.
- Listen – Networking events are loud and filled with lots of people. Depending on whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, this environment can cause so much excitement or anxiety it often interferes with our ability to listen. We’re often so distracted, we start thinking of the next question or what we’re going to say next without ever really listening to the answer. Take a deep breath and focus. Don’t get hung up on asking the next question. Listen because it will help you learn more about the person in front of you.
- Follow up – Sure, you don’t have a lot of time, but drop a few people a brief email telling them that you enjoyed meeting them. If you have information that will help them or you can make an introduction for them, all the better. Follow new-found connections on social media or at least on LinkedIn. Don’t use the generic request, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”. Send a personal note with the request to follow them. It will be more welcoming.
Making connections is absolutely necessary to the growth and wealth of your business. Keep in mind, everyone at a networking event is there for the same purpose as you – to network. You can feel a little more relaxed knowing most everyone in the room feels a bit awkward and uncomfortable too. However, you can be more confident in your network strategy by planning and testing out what tips work for you.
Verity Commercial can be a connector and resource for you when it comes to your commercial real estate. Contact us if you need guidance.