by Ruth Buckingham from Kandu Marketing
This is partly a blog about networking and partly about presenting as I feel the same way about both. I recently had a birthday party for my “big” birthday. It came to the time when one might be expected to make a speech. I have to admit it, I looked at all those lovely smiling faces, froze, and quickly muttered, “Thank you for coming, eat the cake, please dance!”. All these people are friends and family that we know and love so there was absolutely no need to feel overwhelmed but overwhelmed I was!
I often have the same fight or flight approach when it comes to networking. I enjoyed listing to Helen and Sarah talking about it on their Amazing If Squiggly Careers podcast. As Sarah says, despite being aware of our personality types, we shouldn’t use it as an excuse to not attend networking events but be aware of the feeling and find strategies to cope.
Following a recent networking training session with Silvia Baldock, these are the tips that I picked up and will continue to try and implement at least in a professional scenario – maybe I will have it perfected for the 50th!
Networking: prepare in advance
When you know which event or networking group you want to attend, start by sitting down and planning ahead. You can usually see a list of who might be there. The key focus here should be what you can offer to add value to the group. What will the topic be for that event? You might like to think about your own experiences and learnings in this field.
Practice your pitch on Instagram stories
Practice a quick summary of who you are and what you do. Ideally practice it in front of someone. If you feel too shy then film yourself on the phone so that you can get used to talking confidently and omit some of the “ums” “ers” and “likes”. Personally, I quite like Instagram stories for this, there is a double benefit of being more confident with public speaking and spreading the message about what you can offer to a wider audience. The key benefit here is that the stories vanish after 24 hours and I truly believe that the more you use them the more clearly and succinctly you will deliver your message, this is true in networking too.
I find it helpful to set an objective. This could be as simple as talking to at least one new person or offering one piece of useful advice. Networking is rarely about the hard sell, its more about getting to know new people and businesses and sharing knowledge and expertise. The long-term benefit could be potentially picking up potential new clients at a later stage.
Always be ready to network, it’s not just at formal events
You might be surprised where the next opportunity to network springs up. I was recently at the hair-dressers with my son. He asked what I was working on at the moment. It turned out that his wife was about to change jobs and may have some potential marketing work to handover so I was able to leave a business card and talk a little bit about the types of clients I work with.
Emma Cossey, a Freelance Coach from the Freelance Lifestyle community also talks a lot about talking to friends and family about what you do, so you could consider that to be informal networking and it can be a dry run to build your self-confidence.
Be Selective and build genuine connections
If you can find a networking group that fits in with your natural ethos and spirit that is where you will have the most success. I recently joined the Girl Tribe Gang in Thame. This is run by the fabulous Fiona Minett from Boss Your PR. I actually look forward to these monthly meet-ups and have enjoyed meeting other local business women and sharing our experiences. It’s a great feeling to have a support network of other local businesses that are cheering you along and there to lend an ear if you have a question or need some extra support.
On the occasions that you do go to a “traditional” networking session, be yourself, you don’t need to be the life and soul of the event. Actively listen to what others are saying to see how you can support them. It can be easy to fall into the trap of half listening whilst thinking about what your own message will be. This will help build a real connection with other attendees.
Where possible, always follow-up afterwards and continue to support and interact with these people either on social media or through future events.
About Kandu Marketing
My name is Ruth, I am a Freelance Marketing Consultant operating as Kandu Marketing. I provide straight-forward B2B marketing support. This usually starts with content strategy or copy-writing but also covers a range of other marketing activities. I love working with small business owners who are passionate about their product or service. I love helping them craft content that really resonates with their target customers. www.kandumarketing.co.uk
Come join us at our next Tring Buzz Social – at Crockers Chef’s Table, Thursday 23rd May, 8pm – email Katy@thebuzzhub.co for booking.