Even if you dread it now
(It’s ok, lots of people do!)
If the idea of getting ‘out there’ and telling people what you do makes you go weak at the knees, you’re not alone.
You arrive at the meeting trying to look confident and professional, but you feel like a vulnerable 6-year old in a room full of grown-ups who actually know what they’re doing.
You sit there in mounting terror as your turn to speak for 60 seconds comes around.
You find yourself keeping a low profile, spending a long time in the restroom or checking your phone and actively avoiding speaking to anyone for fear of being asked ‘So what do you do?’.
If you heave a huge sigh of relief when it’s all over and you can leave, and you wonder why you went in the first place because it never brings you any business anyway, here are a few practical steps you can take to make networking more effective – and more fun!
Step 1 : Find the right groups for you
If you’re reading this, I know you have a passion for what you do and want to make a positive difference in the world with your gifts.
But being self-employed can feel isolating and lonely at times, so it’s really important to find groups where you’ll feel comfortable and supported.
When I started out I wasted a lot of time and energy in groups where there was an atmosphere of competition rather than mutual support and collaboration, and they were not full of my ideal clients nor anyone who could connect me with ideal clients.
The whole experience freaked me out and left me feeling inadequate, and it was a long time before I had the courage to go networking again.
If you look around the room and just know that most people there will never in a million years ‘get’ what you’re about, then it’s probably not the best group for you to be spending time in.
That lack of meaningful connection saps your confidence and will have you questioning whether you have what it takes to make your business work – and even wondering if you should start looking for a job. Which is not what we want for you!
Here are some of my favourite groups
Right now there is a tsunami of people creating businesses and carving out their own paths in life, and many of them are networking. So seek out groups of like-minded free spirits who will encourage you to keep going through the tough times and celebrate your successes along the way.
If you’re in the London area some of my favourite groups are:
Corrina Gordon-Barnes’ Self-Employed Community Meet-Up – meeting the last Tuesday of the month
Winning Women Central London – next meeting on 10 March
Julie Hall’s Marketing Meetup – next meetings on 19 April and 24 May
Hope to see you there! Check them out and give them a try. I guarantee you’ll come away feeling energised, refreshed and reconnected to your passion and to what made you start your business in the first place. And you will likely have made some new connections that truly support you in the years ahead.
Step 2 : Be clear about your objectives before you arrive
What support are you looking for at the moment? What do you need help with?
Have one clear objective or question in mind that you can share with the people you meet.
You never know who or what they might know that could be hellpful to you.
Step 3 : Intend to create meaningful connections
You are there to build relationships. NOT to sell to people in the room.
I’m sure we’ve all had a business card thrust our way on occasions – and it’s a sure-fire way of turning someone off and seeing their eyes glaze over as they scan the room for someone else to talk to.
Listen carefully to the person you’re connecting with.
Show genuine interest. Find out what they’re looking for and ask yourself who you might connect them with to help them get their message out, or who might work with them as a client or collaborator.
Going into conversations with that ‘What can I GIVE here?’ attitude rather than ‘What can I GET?’ brings a completely different energy to the exchange and creates meaningful connection.
And it goes without saying that if you do happen to feel you’re the person who could help them, let them know and invite them to book in with you for a free initial consultation to explore what they need (but do not be drawn into doing that in the room).
Step 4 : Check out in advance who is going to be there
See if you can identify 2-3 people you would really like to connect with and make sure you speak with them. People with a similar target audience to your own who offer different but complementary services, where you might add value to each other’s communities.
A Business Coach, for example, might collaborate with a Mindset Mentor, or a Web Designer.
Invite them for a Skype coffee to get to know each other better, with the ultimate aim of exploring possibilities for collaboration or joint ventures (but not right away – think of this as a first date 😉 ).
Step 5 : Practice saying in a nutshell who you help, what you help them with and why you’re passionate about it
How many times have you met someone at networking and no matter how many clarifying questions you asked, you still didn’t have a clue what they do?
If you don’t give people the essentials with great clarity in the first couple of sentences, you’re likely to either confuse them or lose their attention altogether – particularly if you go into a long, rambling explanation of the amazing modalities that you use.
People with a problem just want to know if you can help with them with that problem – they are not on the whole interested in how you do that, no matter how enthusiastic you are about your tools and processes. Sorry!
If you can be really clear and specific on the types of people you help and what you help them with, they will be much more likely to remember you and understand who they can refer to you.
You might also share a little of your story. How did you come to be doing what you do? Your passion and enthusiasm will be memorable and you’ll be top of mind as the go-to person for the particular problem that you solve.
Step 6 : Work on yourself as well as on your business
Mindset is at least 90% of success and as a self-employed person, you’re no longer operating in a corporate context when you market, YOU are the business.
Which inevitably brings up a lot of self-doubt and unresolved self-worth issues, fears of being found out and so on.
Recognise that whatever nerves or anxieties or fears have been triggered in you by networking, this is a golden opportunity to heal something in yourself.
Practice seeing those fears as opportunities to expand your comfort zone and grow rather than as obstacles to getting your message out there.
Prioritising your own personal growth is every bit as important as any business plan or marketing strategy, because progress is a slog without addressing those fears.
You’ll find yourself procrastinating, hiding behind the computer and playing small, which means you won’t get the clients you need to sustain yourself and will end up looking for a job just to pay the bills.
Not what we want for you!
Find a way to clear your fears so you can go networking and talk about what you do confidently. These are just some of the fears we address in all of my programmes, and most especially in my new ‘Be A Confident Speaker’ programme.
Step 7 : Decide that you’re going to have fun making connections!
‘Networking’ and ‘marketing’ (those dreaded words) simply mean ‘talking to people’ and ‘telling them what you do’.
If you’re feeling anxious about that, do some tapping ahead of time
- To begin, simply tap around the points and tell yourself the truth of how you feel
- As your system relaxes and you start to feel calmer, tap in some positive choices of how you would ideally like to feel
- Visualise how you would like it to go – be open and curious about all the amazing new people you’re about to meet, who are on the same journey as you and totally understand your self-doubts and fears as you step outside your comfort zone and keep doing things you’ve never done before
- Choose to be amazed how calm and confident you feel, and how much fun you’re having telling people what you do
- And tap in some feelings of surprise and gratitude for all the amazingly useful connections you’re making
- Be open to feeling surprisingly calm and relaxed as you share your passion for what you do and the difference you know you can make
And be open to feeling inspired by what you hear from others too 🙂
Over to you now
What has your experience of networking been? Have you found ways to make it effective and enjoyable too? Please share your tips in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.
PS : Want to feel confident networking and speaking to groups?
Click the link below to check out my new programme:
Be A Confident Speaker
(Check it out now if you know you need this – there’s only one of me and I have spaces for just 2-3 new clients each month. Will one of them be yours?)