It’s odd to think that in a world of email, instant messaging and LinkedIn, traditional networking events are still regarded as a vital tactic for business growth.
If you’re yet to attend a networking event because you have fears it might result in a wasted day, I’m afraid you’re missing out.
Chances are, there are some fabulous networking events right on your doorstep, just waiting for your attendance, and while you’re certainly not alone in being wary of them, I’d like to take this opportunity to debunk some common myths.
You need to be an extrovert
No you don’t!
If the reason you shy away from networking events is because you’re introverted, you’re missing the opportunity to connect face-to-face with other introverts!
In reality, you’ll only find a handful of extroverts at networking events; most people there are like you and I. That means you’ll quickly find likeminded individuals who are probably just as nervous as you, and there are few better ways to settle those nerves!
It’s all a bit ‘salesy’
The people who head to networking events with the intention of selling their wares are in for something of a disappointment.
There are plenty of tried-and-tested networking tactics, but none of them relate to selling. The reason for attending events of this kind is to make new connections and spread the word about your brand and any thoughts you have on the industry.
Turn up with a sales brochure and prepared speeches about how awesome and cost-effective your product is, and you won’t make many friends.
You need to be great at small talk
Small talk certainly helps, but remember - networking is a business venture; you’re not there to talk endlessly about the weather or last night’s football.
You’ll need to rely on some of that in order to endear yourself to people, but small talk is actually a very small element of networking; you’ll find that conversations develop quickly into meaty, industry-specific topics that are of great value to you and the person standing opposite.
You’ll end up running into competitors
So what? You probably will. You might even run into that customer who left you on bad terms last year.
If that happens, you’ll need to grab the bull by the horns and turn it into a positive experience.
For instance, the competitor might actually turn out to be pretty approachable, and you can probably share a few whimsical stories about the industry with them. And that unhappy customer? In the cold light of day, and with chance encounters of this kind, they’ll likely soften somewhat, and who knows - you might even win them back!
It’s a waste of time
Pick the wrong networking event, and yes - you’ll waste a good portion of the day that could be spent productively in the office.
Pick the right networking event, and you’ll make new connections that might result in fantastic strategic partnerships for the business, or, at the very least, gain some crucial insight into current industry trends.
Networking, when done correctly, is a smart use of your time.
Still fearful of networking? Thought not!
The best advice I can give as a parting gift is to simply enjoy the event. Networking is fun, and you’ll soon find that any fears you had upon entering the room fast evaporate once you open that initial conversation.
Mark Ellis is a freelance writer who specialises in copywriting, blogging and content marketing for businesses of all sizes. Mark’s considerable experience at director level and deep interest in personal and business success means he’s ready to comment on anything from freelance writing to workplace dynamics, technology and personal improvement.