It’s important to know the target audience for your business in order to do marketing correctly. In the same sense, it is important to know the audiences in which you need to network with.
When I was first starting my business I was told that I need to “go out there and network” with people. I didn’t exactly understand what this meant and as a result I attended many “networking events” that were a complete waste of my time, and I absolutely dreaded attending. I should emphasize that I’m an introvert, so attending events is extremely exhausting to me to begin with. Learning to make intentional decisions about what events I attend and what I can expect to gain from the time I give in attending them became important to me.
What I learned over time is that you cannot just randomly go to events and expect to walk away with grand connections. It’s true that you never know if the next person you meet can help take you to the next level, but these types of leaps in levels usually happen by building relationships over time. When it comes to networking, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Come in with a Reachable Goal
You don’t need to attend a “networking event” just to “schmooze” as they say. Frankly, this type of attendance is usually the ones that waste time. This is because you’re often walking into it with the wrong goal. Your goal shouldn’t be to collect as many random business cards as possible. Your goal should be aligned with something more direct and purposeful. You can come into an event with goals such as:
- Connect with one person in your line of work to get a feel for the competitive landscape or industry trends
- Talk to five people that help validate or invalidate your product idea
- Learn five business tips from people you aspire to become
2. Surround Yourself with the Right Network
Ensure you’re interacting with people that line up with your business sector or target customer audience. Just because there’s people present doesn’t mean they’re a fit to help you grow. Do your research before attending events, and ask yourself questions like these:
- Who will be attending the event? What are their careers and characteristics? Much like you need to understand your audience before giving a speech or pitch, you need to understand your network before going to an event.
- Can you really connect with people here that can help you? If the answer is no or an overwhelming gut feeling of no, don’t go. You know yourself best. Be honest with yourself.
- Can you help the people who are attending? You need to provide value to others in order for them to help you. Having this power in your pocket to help others will not only help with making connections, but it will give you confidence.
3. Get Introduced
The best events are usually the ones that are recommended to you to attend. Where possible attend an event where you know someone else who can introduce you to others. This helps break the ice and puts you in a position of making more meaningful connections.
4. Have a Pitch Ready
You’ve likely heard of the term “elevator pitch.” It simply means to have an internal script memorized that helps you tell others what you do and/or what your business provides. These can vary in types and length. You don’t need to memorize a book. Coming in with just a one-liner is enough to start a conversation. Here are some examples:
- Personal One-Liner (this is mine): My name is Maria Gosur. I’m a multi-passionate creative who loves to learn, grow, make a difference and inspire others to do the same. From here I can talk about what different types of creative work I do, what I love to learn about, and how I help others. There are a variety of pieces to work with here.
- Here’s another example: You know how it can be difficult for parents to find a babysitter? My company built an app that allows parents to find a local and long-term babysitter that meets their specified criteria. In this one-liner, we’re using the problem/solution method. We use a question to paint the picture of a relatable problem, and then we state how the company provides a solution. It’s a more interesting approach over saying something basic like “My company builds a babysitting-finder app”. See the difference?
5. Ask Questions
Attending events can be intimidating because we think that the spotlight is always on us, that we have to be talking at each moment about ourselves and/or our business. It’s just not true, so don’t place that kind of pressure on yourself. You can deflect attention off of you anytime by asking questions. It’s a great conversation starter. Such questions may be:
- What kind of work do you do?
- What brings you to this event?
- What have you learned so far?
- How long have you been attending these events?
- What’s the favorite part of your work?
In summary, it can be of value to attend an event but only if it lines up with your goals and audience types. Don’t feel obligated to go because someone in life said you need to schmooze to get ahead. That’s terrible advice and simply not true. You need to build relationships with others over time, and how to do this looks different to every person and business. But if you do decide to attend what you deem a “networking event”, there are small actions you can take to be better prepared for it. Oh and remember, be your authentic self and have fun!