Networking – Not all early rises and cringey small talk

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Networking – Not all early rises and cringey small talk

I started going to more networking events just over a year ago. I returned back from maternity leave and my role changed. Although, I had been to some networking events before learning that I would now be networking much more left me feeling somewhat nervous. After all, who wouldn’t be – walking into a room full of strangers and standing up to (try) and sell what you do. I wasn’t sure if my pitch was too long or not long enough. I soon realised, however, there was so much more to networking than that.

The first event I attended was quite a structured and traditional early morning breakfast event. The event was at a venue that was unfamiliar to me. I basically didn’t have a clue where I was going!

It didn’t get off to the best start, I was slightly late (and by that I mean on time but I’m the kind of person who has to be everywhere ten minutes early) so I was already stressed and anxious. I pulled up in the carpark and I could see other members of the group getting out of their cars. I needed to change out of my driving shoes and into my heels so I leant over to my passenger seat and grabbed my shoes. In the process of changing, I somehow managed to lean on my steering wheel and very loudly at 5:55 am beep my car horn! This drew attention to my struggling red-face in the car. It also let the whole group know there was a (very) strange new guest turning up!

Despite my entrance, I was really pleasantly surprised at how friendly they all were and how welcome they made me feel. I stood up and presented my very first 60-second pitch, it was actually ok but I’m pretty certain that particular pitch has never won me any clients!

After visiting various local breakfast events and settling into the Kent scene, I decided to venture into London. Wow. What a different experience. I walked into a room full of people (still feeling very nervous) and was handed a glass of chilled white wine. I was stood alone for all of about 30 seconds. Before I knew it a friendly guy came over to say hello and find out who I was.

After a couple of months my confidence grew and I was even able to stand up and give a 60 second pitch without getting butterflies! I now only had one dilemma. Why had I not picked up any leads? Was I going to? Perhaps I was just rubbish at sales?

Round about a month later I had a random email from someone I had never met or spoken to before. He said that he had been at another networking event locally. He had met someone who advised that he should speak to me. That person just so happened to be the same person that I had been sat next to on the first networking event I had attended and been so nervous about!

The leads then started coming in quite steadily as I had started to build my circle. People were starting to remember me. The more they saw me out at events the more what I did would stick with them. I realised quite quickly it’s not actually about the amount of potential clients in the room it’s about who is in the room and how they find you as a person. Are you someone that they would want to do business with? Are you someone who they feel comfortable with and can trust?

So here’s a few of my top networking tips for you:

  • Don’t walk into a room expecting to take something away – walk into a room with the attitude of what can you bring and who can you help.
  • Never dismiss anyone, I once opened the door to the delivery driver –  we started chatting and his son ended up as a client!
  • Networking is a long game and not a quick fix, people like to get to know you before they recommend your services.
  • Be yourself – people buy from people.

Not only do I now feel confident delivering a 10-minute presentation, I even chair a morning networking group! I would love to see you there. It’s the BOB group in Faversham. If you fancy it click here. I’m still not quite sure how that happened but it just goes to show if you be yourself and enjoy meeting new people networking can actually be pretty easy!

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Lucy Ellis

Lucy Ellis

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Works Diverse Ltd is a company based in the UK providing a certification service for businesses to show their commitment to a fairer, more equal and diverse workplace and business.

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