Networking Advice for 2012
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I have quite a list of marketing tasks for 2012, not the least of which is to be more committed to attending networking events. For most people, this is the deadly third rail of business development- you force yourself to go, immediately grab a drink and start looking for familiar faces, while trying to seem cool and aloof, like you just happen to be in between business transactions.
If I knew how to make these events fun, I would not be wasting my time blogging about it…I’d be selling that as a service and watching the checks roll in! But I would like to offer a few words of advice to best use your time and make these events a bit more enjoyable:
Bring a wingman. Sometimes, having a friend with you is the confidence- and comfort-boosting thing you need to be able to more effectively network. The one pitfall to this approach, though, is talking to your friend all night (therefore eliminating the utility of going to the event in the first place). Before you and your friend go to an event, spend a little time setting some goals and ground rules. Once you’ve shared your goals for the evening, set the intention to encourage each other to achieve them.
Visualize the evening. It sounds hokey, but if you know who you’d like to speak to at an event, you can then spend some time imagining how you might introduce yourself to them, and how you’ll describe what your company could do for them. Then when you get your chance, you won’t accidentally blow it by stammering your way through the conversation.
Touch home base. When a conversation with a new contact comes to a natural ending, you’ll have the chance to rejoin your friend. It eliminates that awkward walking around by yourself thing, and you can recap who you’ve met and how it went. It’s a great chance to get some kudos for going outside your comfort zone, and to refuel for more.
Choose events wisely. Not all networking events are created equal. If you really hate going to a specific event, even if your potential customers are there, evaluate if it’s worth going. If being at an event is so miserable for you that you can’t bring your A Game, it may not be worth attending. Especially if you can find another way to finagle an introduction to those desirable potential clients.
With a little planning, networking events can prove really fruitful, and become less stressful and uncomfortable. Hey, you might even learn to like them a little bit!