Networking is something we all have to do so I totally hear the “ugh” in your voice as you’re skimming this post. Don’t worry! I’ve got some good stuff for you – learn from my awkwardness!
Working from a home office for the last 18 years did not make a networking superstar. However, I recently completed a crap ton of events during my Week of Yes where I said Yes! to everything that came across my desk. Here is the link to that post if you haven’t read it yet. (I’d be super happy if you did!) That week has turned into much, much longer because it was actually fun.
There are some things I learned during this time that I want to pass along. Take what works for you and leave the obvious or what doesn’t apply. We’re here to share to feel free to leave your networking tips in the comments below.
13 Networking Tips for Online Entrepreneurs
1. Select the right event for you.
Look at Facebook events or Eventbrite to see what’s happening in your area. Try not to limit yourself to only free events. Some networking groups allow for a free first visit so you can find out who else is in that group, where they usually meet and if they are just as nerdy and awkward as you. Score!
Discover events inside and outside your industry. Recently, I attended an event at Ruckus Indianapolis Makerspace for creatives in woodworking, metalworking, laser-cutting, 3D printing, sewing and a lot more. (Think industrial co-working space for serious artists.) I’m not an artist but they welcomed me with open arms and I met some fabulous people! Don’t limit yourself to only events where you geek speak about the same stuff to the same people all the time.
2. Know WTF you’re doing and why you’re here. What is your overall goal for going to this event?
For some, it might just be to GET OUT of the home office and live a little. Test the waters. Hey, it was for me and there’s no shame in that.
For others, it might be to meet a certain number of people, which I don’t really suggest, but some of you are into gamifying everything so power to ya! Fist bump.
Still, others might simply be there for the Instagram photo. I see ya.
Everyone is selling but no one is buying.
3. Look for ways to connect with people.
Do you know any of the same people? Attended the same political or social event? Perhaps your kids go to the same school or have similar interests? I met the husband of someone in my marketing industry who works in fabrics and textiles who I later introduced to a new designer friend of mine. They are now collaborating on a clothing line spanning four countries!
Takeaway: Sometimes, it’s not about who you are going to meet but who you can connect.
4. Ask “How can I support you and your business?”
We all know someone who knows someone that needs help. I often ask this question to new people I meet or to cut through the awkward silence.
Earlier this year I connected a friend who needed a realtor. That realtor then referred one of her clients to me who had a side business and was ready to quit her job but needed help with marketing. Hello! That’s exactly what I do. Had I not referred my friend, I wouldn’t have been front of mind when her client needed me.
5. A teaspoon of prep goes a long way.
Now that you are emotionally prepared to attend an event and know why you’re going, it’s time to get ready.
How can people find you? When you meet new people, how can they contact you? I totally get you millennials aren’t a fan of business cards but I’m telling you, they work. It’s too awkward for someone to get out their phone and find you on Instagram or LinkedIn. Besides, when you get home HOW will you remember which of your new followers was that great business prospect you met that night? I’ve seen it happen and it’s not pretty.
Speaking of social media, make sure all your channels have accurate information, good profile and/or cover photo and a recent post. If you’re all about Insta and someone finds your ghostly Twitter profile that seems inactive, it won’t look good.
6. Find out who else is going.
Ask people in your circles if they are going to this event.
Check out Facebook events to see if any of your friends are going.
Search the hashtag for that event to see who else is promoting the event by postings or retweeting.
7. Reach out to other attendees or the main speaker
Using the event hashtag can tell you a lot of information such as:
-Who is the keynote speaker
-Where is the location and where do you park
-Other attendees you want to meet
Once I retweeted the keynote speaker’s post saying that I would be there and she came right up to me when I arrived. We had a great talk, exchanged phone numbers and plans to collaborate. Now I have a direct line to an industry influencer all because of a couple tweets! You never know.
Takeaway: Reach out to other attendees so you know someone when you get there.
8. Use Evernote to plan your social media tweets in advance.
This is the geek move that works really well! I use Evernote app to organize the hashtags for the event and make some notes beforehand such as the @username of location, keynote speaker and influencers attending. Then, I can copy/paste into posts for Instagram, Twitter or Facebook quickly so I don’t take up too much time with my face in my phone.
Takeaway: A little preparation keeps your face out of your phone during the event!
9. If it’s not on social media it didn’t happen.
My inner introvert is screaming right now! I’m working on this, I swear. These days this is a main motivator to put pants on and go.
Takeaway: If you’re going, get in a pic and post it. If we’re ever at an event together, hold me to this. I’ll be in your pic with you because I have this thing about that darn accountability thing. Dang it.
10. The Business Card Trick
Here is the low key trick people use with business cards. (plus, you can tell whether you’ve made a good impression.) People segment new contacts using business cards.
If you’re right-handed and you’ve met someone with whom you want to follow-up, place that card in your right pocket. (If you don’t have pockets and using a card holder, place it in a designated place in your business card holder.)
For someone who doesn’t meet this first round follow-up, place the card in your left pocket.
For people who push their card to you or you’re not interested, place in your back pocket or jacket pocket.
Takeaway: Once you see where someone placed YOUR card, you can react accordingly and hopefully save the day, if needed.
Caution: If you see your card is being placed in that forget-it-back-pocket, don’t freak out. They might just have a different segmenting system. I jokingly asked a guy once. We had a good laugh about it. He admitted it and which was a good segway into an opportunity for me to tell him more about my corporate marketing services. He signed a contract the next day!
11. The Follow-Up
Make notes as soon as you can about the contacts you made, event, small tidbits and how you can help them. If you’re using a CRM, add the info from their business card along with your notes and a calendar reminder to follow-up or DO THE THING you promised them you would do. Very important.
Recently at a Women of Skyline Event at The Skyline Club in Indianapolis, I met Alpha Blackburn, Blackburn Architects, and an award-winning fashion designer. She is a legend here in Indianapolis.
Alpha was there to promote her upcoming fashion show Real Men Wear Pink! then stayed to chat with us about her best networking tips. She had one steadfast rule. Alpha told us back in the day, she sent handwritten notes via messenger as soon as possible. The note included some tidbits they shared the previous evening. She was sure to always be the first person to reach out. That is how important it was to her to begin a new business relationship off right. Now we email but her point was not to wait 2-3 days or a week or so when you’ve blocked out time in your schedule for such things. Do it right away! And yes I did send a note to her the very next morning.
Takeaway: In the days of email, go ahead and send that email. Make that e-introduction that you promised. Don’t wait! We meet a lot of people and that new person you met might forget you.
12. Caution! Caution!
In the past, I’ve had women tell me they simply throw away business cards anyway. Girl, do you know how long we agonized over that logo and what information to include? Don’t do that to people. If you do, don’t tell them to their face.
13. Say My Name
Please try not to tell people you won’t remember meeting them or their name. Most of us are terrible with names and/or faces so at least TRY. Saying this up front makes the other person feel unimportant. Let’s make a unified effort to help each other out here.
Next time you run into someone you’ve met before, go ahead and remind them of your name. The other person will say their name out of habit so you’ll be safe too in case you forgot.
Don’t worry! It’s awkward for all of us. Relax, be yourself and have fun. Go into it with a good mindset and the rest will work itself out. Remember, it’s not about who you meet but who you can connect.
Do you have networking tips to share? Comment below to help us out!
If something here has resonated with you or you would like to learn more about how networking can help your online business, let’s chat. Use this secure form to request a complimentary consultation http://bit.ly/meetwithkelly.