Let me tell you how odd it is for me, of all people, to be writing an article about networking. First of all, I’m an introvert. No, that does not mean I am scared of people but I do tend to recharge by looking inward. Secondly, when I first started out, I absolutely hated networking. I saw it as “schmoozing”, which conjured up all sorts of negative connotations in my mind. But, as a business owner, after I’d exhausted my associated connections, I had to go outside of my network.
While I still need to recharge after an event, I have become more comfortable and effective at this networking thing. I was watching one of my favorite movies (Mahogany starring Diana Ross and Billie Dee Williams) and it helped me to put some of this networking stuff in perspective.
Do you know where you’re going to?
There are likely several different types of people attending any given event for a whole host of reasons. Your goal should be to know who is there and why. Do not presume that every attendee has the same agenda. Whenever possible, do your research before the event. Find the published list of attendees (if one exists). Then, review the list and see if there’s anyone you’d like to meet. If you find someone on the list who you want to meet, you might try reaching out to them and mention that you’ll be at the same event and that you look forward to seeing them there. Too shy or just looking for a warm introduction? Look for a connection on LinkedIn. Doing a bit of research before the event will help make your time more productive.
If you’re only for yourself, you’re going to be by yourself.
(Diana to Billie Dee, as he runs for public office.)
At a recent event I attended, I watched a gentleman proceed to introduce himself and his company by handing out business cards to anyone who would listen. He moved from person to person like he was speed dating. Here’s the thing: making shallow introductions leaves little room for you to leave a lasting or memorable impression. It’s a good idea to get to know people. Ask lots of questions. Find out more about the people you meet. Perhaps you’ll do business together or maybe you’ll have an opportunity to introduce them to a colleague or vice versa. You will benefit yourself—and others—in the long run if you create a mutually valuable connection.
I’m a winner, baby!
(Diana. Ok, her character is a bit delirious in the scene but I’m trying to make a point here.)
My point is to accentuate what you do best. Practice your elevator speech, if that works for you. If you have the gift of gab, speaking extemporaneously can work if you focus on your value. Do not try to be all things. Do not try to be more than you are because the veil will eventually be lifted. When you talk about what you’re good at and passionate about, your personal brand shines through. And, that’s what you really want to share at networking events.