Before we can look at strategies to make you feel more comfortable there are a few essentials you need to know about the ‘art of networking’:

Recognize that working ON your business is just as important as working IN your business.

246585_448307518527475_2034053102_nIf you are always working IN your business and never get out there to meet new customers, you may not experience the growth you are looking for. Your customers need to know the ‘face’ behind the ‘brand’ and will relate to your business, products and service better if know who you are.

#1. Networking is a very effective and cost effective way of advertising. You are controlling the message. Networking advertises you, your personal brand and your company. But be careful you don’t attend networking events to sell, sell, sell.

#2. Networking is not about selling, it’s about building relationships. If you push your products and services on others you will turn them off and they will tune you out or avoid you altogether.

#3. You network to be an effective listener and learn about others. You can’t focus on the benefits you can provide to others before having a true sense of their needs. When you focus on others, and come from the place of giving, rather than the place of taking, your personal network will grow.

#4. Be authentic & Get Real. By creating ‘real conversation’ and not pushy sales talk, and by genuinely being interested in others, people will want to connect with you.

#5. You have so much to give in the form of your industry knowledge, wisdom and expertise. Be the knowledgeable, wise person.  Share tips and tricks that you might have used that helped you overcome a challenge, realize success in a certain area of your business or offer connections with others who helped you.

#6. Treat networking as a learning opportunity to discover the business needs of others and how you can help them.

#7. Treat networking as an extension of your business day. You are there to work – net-work; you are not there to spend time with only those people you already know. Of course you’ll say hi and have a quick chat with your current connections, but let’s face it, you’re there to meet new people.

#8. Instead of your standard 30 second or 1 minute elevator pitch, try this instead:

  1. At the point of introduction, say your name and business – stop there – don’t give your elevator pitch!  Say your tagline only.
  2. Once your company tagline is presented, engage in conversation by asking them questions about their business and then be strategic about how you might be able to help them – if you can. Can you refer them to others who might be able to help in their challenge? Can you provide a tip or resource that you’ve found helpful when faced with a similar challenge?

#9. Networking fees, along with your professional association dues, are allowable business expenses. Save your receipts for tax purposes.

#10. Ensure you have a signature line on your emails and a friendly professional voicemail.

Have fun and enjoy the process. Relax. Chances are the other guests have apprehension, just like you.

Deb_r2Deb Alcadinho is the owner of Your Brand Power and Westshore Women’s Business Network (WWBN). She works with business and professional women to develop their personal brands to help them gain their competitive edge and stand out in a crowded marketplace, increasing revenues and their branding. WWBN provides a networking platform, training and business development for business women to connect, inspire, learn, grow and succeed.