What do you think of networking events? Though some businesspeople loathe them, I look forward to them. Especially, the ones that allow everyone an opportunity to introduce themselves to the whole group. Apparently, I came through the ranks taking a unique path, introducing myself on a regular basis until it was an often-recurring part of my life. I didn’t know this was atypical until a colleague recently mentioned that most people do not learn to introduce themselves as part of their jobs.
With plenty of activities that required public speaking from elementary school through college, I continued in jobs and activities that required me to speak with people and create rapport quickly (retail sales, waitressing, volunteering, then eventually self-employment where networking was paramount).
Networking – Determine the Value of Each Event
Why do you go to those breakfasts, lunches, happy hours, and dinners? I hope you say it’s for the self-introductions! This is your opportunity to talk to people so they can get to know you, like you, trust you, and ultimately contract with you.
To me, a networking meal is only worth the price of admission when you have an opportunity to introduce yourself. If you don’t get your 30-second introduction time, and there isn’t a keynote speaker or an activity, you are better off inviting someone you want to work with to lunch and having one-on-one time with this person.
Tips to Becoming a Self-Introduction Pro
If this is all new to you, then here are some tips to make this experience not just painless, but pleasurable.
- First off, jot down a few ideas of what you’ll say. Test the water at the meeting you’re attending to see if the group appreciates humor or if they are a more serious business group. Creating a quick introduction that is memorable while being descriptive is a great way to go. Another option is to share something topical or a special you are offering.
- Practice in front of a mirror. Don’t feel stupid doing this. By the third time you’ll feel more comfortable with your comments and have some of the jitters out of the way.
- Make it a habit! Go back to the meetings again, and again. It gets easier! Attend different types of meetings with different groups to see which ones you like best.
If you have the wherewithal, then create a catchy little phrase or song that people can recite with you. This will help people remember you easily and with the right words, you have identified your company as a solution to a problem they have.
If you are attending networking events that are strictly mixers and rely wholly on mingling, then be strategic and smart. Plan on connecting with two or three people, not 30. It’s not realistic that you are going to shake hands and have an instant customer. You are going to need to cultivate these relationships over time. If you can have a 10-15 minute conversation with someone while balancing a glass of wine and a plate of charcuterie nibbles, you will find out whether they are more of a client for you, a referral source, or a collaborator. Follow-up with these people with a phone call to talk more about forging an ongoing relationship in one of these capacities.
Call Me, Maybe
They can’t contact you if you don’t give them the means to do so. Have business cards handy, not tucked deep in the recesses of your purse or dog-eared in your wallet. If you have a digital version of your card, think about a tap card or put the QR code on your nametag so people can easily scan it.
It was Woody Allen who said that 80% of success is just showing up. You can’t find out if this is true unless you go. Show up with an intent to cultivate a new relationship.
Leslie A.M. Smith founded McCormick L.A. in 1994 offering public relations and marketing consulting to nonprofits and small businesses. She is the author of Laws of Promotion. The 50-page promotional guide for small businesses and local nonprofits is available now on Amazon. Call her for help with your promotion. If you found this post helpful, please leave a note here and feel free to share it.