First of all, you need to understand that I used to be SCARED of networking. Scared of how I looked approaching someone who is doing better than me in life. Scared of what to say to this person I have seen on TV all my life and is now standing at arms length at a cocktail party after a meeting. Scared of how I am dressed, my hair. Good gracious! I am even presentable? Will this person take me seriously?
Over the years, I have learnt that if I want to be better at networking, I have to put in the work.
1. Dress The Part. Look Sharp!
I want to say that what you wear doesn’t matter, but c’mon, we still live in a world that judges how we look. So what I do is dress well, fix my hair (or tie it in a nice kitambaa style ya Patricia Kihoro and the like) then head to the networking event. This takes my mind off how I look to what I aim to achieve from the networking session. It also boosts my confidence and we all know that is KEY to a woman.
2. Do it in the Mirror.
I mean practice!
Haha! Don’t think for a second that the ideas you have in your head of how you will introduce yourself is what will spew out of your mouth when the time comes…Oh trust me, I have tried and failed! So take the time and write a short statement of who you are, what you do and why you are talking to the person you intend to network with. The more concise you are, the more well put together you appear and that C.E.O or potential client will pay attention to what you say instead of you going on and on and boring the poor guy. Have a clear understanding of what you do and why, for whom, and what makes you d it special or different from others doing the same thing.
No, for real. LISTEN to what your counterpart is saying. In fact, as you network, ask them questions so you know them better. They will love you for that! Questions like:
- So what does your company do?
- Who do you offer your goods and services to?
- What do you do different from your competitors?
Listen more to find out how you can offer your goods or services to the person you are networking with.
4. Maintain Composure.
Ok, unless it’s Trey Songz you are talking to…Or Rihanna. There, I allow you to lose it. No one will judge you boo!
Say you are at an event and Janet Mbugua is there, or Hussein Mohammed. You love their work. You want to speak to them about how they can mentor you in media. You need to approach them from the point of equals (yes you are!) So hata kama I am overjoyed thinking about the selfie we shall take, hata kama I want a group hug and in my head we are BFF’s, I will not act all familiar. I will not grin and stare as they talk. I always maintain composure. Again, you don’t want to be seen as a crazy fan just wasting their time, but a serious young professional who with the right guidance will be the next best thing, and you will have them to thank.
5. Secure a second date!
If you strongly feel that this person is someone worth working, take their contacts and make that call the following day. Arrange for a second meeting say at a restaurant to propose and expound further on how you can work with them and from there well… you’re in! If your counterpart gave you a referral, then follow through quickly and efficiently. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow.
6. Cut It.
There comes a time someone will walk up to me and as pleasant as they are, they aren’t really someone my company would work with at that moment so I will cut that convo and move to someone else I have spotted that will most probably do business with me.
The very tricky part is HOW do I cut it? Politely ask for their business card and say that you shall think about what they have told you, and that you have spotted someone you want to say hello to. Or excuse yourself to use the restroom. That is politer than pretending to be drunk and just walking away. Lol! Been there done that. Those cocktails maaaan…
So chin up little soldier, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Only prepare.
Any tip you can add here to help us networkers? Don’t be shy, share!
Love. Live. Learn.
Also read on Effective Networking HERE