As an introvert, speaking at networking events wasn’t something that came naturally. In fact, I dreaded every networking occasion – even the ‘fun’ social kind. However, as my career started to take off, I realised that I had to become more comfortable with it.
I read every book I could find on networking and asked my peers for advice. But none of the advice I read or received addressed the inner fear I experienced. So I decided to create my own rules of engagement which enabled me to use my quiet strengths in ways that allowed me to create genuine connections while being 100 per cent myself.
This led to my biggest lesson: there is never just one way to do anything. It’s important to recognise and embrace your own personality and to define your own approach which aligns with your values and allows you to be your best self. Once you do that, you’ll be amazed at how many exciting (and ‘perfect for you’) opportunities will come your way.
The benefits of networking go far beyond the prospect of finding your next client. By breaking out of your comfort zone and attending conferences and networking events, you can gain industry insights, introductions to potential partners and the chance to discover new opportunities.
On my journey to learn to love networking, my way, the one thing I struggled with most was how to introduce my business. It took some time and experimentation to master this, but now my introductions rarely fail to turn into longer conversations about my work.
Before I share more on that, it’s helpful to understand the three core elements of networking, as your introduction will need to play into these. Networking is a game of three parts:
Before the event
Many business owners see networking as a challenge to get as many business cards in the hands of strangers as possible. I would advise against this. It’s far more effective to reflect on your goals for the event and consciously set yourself up for success. For example:
• What is your prime goal?
• Who do you most want to meet?
• What do you want them to remember about you?
• What next step do you want them to take?
• How can you make it easy?
When you know who you want to attract, you can think about the words, phrases and stories that will interest them and guide them towards the next most natural step with you.
During the event
You’ve prepared your introduction and talking points in advance, and you’re well stocked with business cards. But avoid the temptation to share either of these too readily. This is not your only chance to connect with the people at the event, but the first step in what could be a long and fruitful relationship.
Take your time and keep your interactions natural, aiming to speak for only 20 per cent of the time. Exchange business cards last, as part of a genuine promise to continue your conversation later.
After the event
This is when the real magic happens. Follow up with the people you decided to add to your network by sending a personalised message that relates to your conversation. Share anything that you promised them and invite them to the next step, such as a coffee or virtual catch-up to explore synergies further.
Stay in touch with your contacts over time. Good networking is all about relationships.
Introducing your business
Your introduction has two goals:
1) To be instantly clear, so your new friend can easily tell if you are someone they would want to work with or if you can help someone they know.
2) To prompt them to respond with: “Wow, tell me more!”
Here are two sample introduction outlines to help you:
The ‘I can help’ intro
In this introduction, tell your new friend exactly what kind of people you work with, what you do for them, and the benefits they walk away with.
Here’s how it might sound in practice: “I work with coaches and consultants who want to simplify their marketing while also making it more meaningful, so they can enjoy growing their business, work with more of their dream clients and have a bigger impact in the world.”
You can prepare and use this as a spoken introduction, as well as for online events when you are invited to type your introduction into the discussion box.
The conversation intro
This works best in-person. You want to convey the same information as above, but construct the first line as a question (one they are likely to resonate with), so you can draw them into a conversation.
“Have you ever wished you could work with more of your perfect clients without the whole marketing and selling part?” (Wait for response).
“Well, that’s where I come in. I help coaches and consultants simplify their marketing, while also making it more meaningful, so they can enjoy growing their business, work with more of their dream clients and have a bigger impact in the world.”
Practise your chosen introduction and keep tweaking it until, more often than not, people ask you for more information about how you get those results. That’s when you can bring in some more detail and share your stories and client wins.
Finally, remember that this is just the first of many conversations you’ll have if you follow up over time. So, take your time, allow the other person to speak more than you do, and have fun. People always want to stay in touch with people who they enjoy being around and who make them feel special, so keep this in mind.
Like all things worth having, building a strong network can take time. But I’ve come to believe that it’s the ultimate shortcut to everything you want to achieve, so it’s worth the investment.
About the author
Melitta Campbell, business coach and best-selling author of A Shy Girl’s Guide to Networking. To read more about Melitta, visit her website: https://www.melittacampbell.com/