Too many people see networking as some sort of challenge. How many business cards can I gather at this event? How many of my own can I hand out? How many new names can I add to my list of growing acquaintances?
Often people see it as a boring, yet necessary part of their business. Shake a hand here, smile and nod there, appear at the best events, be seen by the best people.
The truth is that if you truly want to get something out of networking, it comes down to two things; having the right attitude and approaching it the right way.
The purpose of networking is to “connect.” This means building a relationship with someone that goes beyond a simple business card to add to your pile, beyond a new contact to add to your email list and beyond hoping they keep your card and reach out.
If you are looking for business first and a relationship second, you are already doing it wrong.
So how can you network effectively as an image consultant?
We have a few tips that might help.
Focus on being a person first and a business owner second.
Remind yourself before each event, meeting or party that you are not there just to grow your business, you are there to grow your relationships. You need to be seen as a human and not some business machine who is only looking at each person you meet for what they might be able to do for your business or how they might vibe with what you are doing. This approach will leave you feeling as if networking is a waste of time in the long run.
Be honest and authentic.
People can smell inauthenticity on people like bad perfume. You have to be honest about yourself, who you are and be yourself in all situations. Authenticity not only shows that you are a leader, but that you are comfortable in who you are, what you offer people of yourself and this makes you seem more competent and confident.
Have the right attitude.
This goes back to showing up as a person and not a business. This is the attitude you have to go into each and every interaction with. Do not start a conversation with what you do, your title, what you can offer someone and do not go into it looking at what they can offer you. Instead, start with being yourself and let the conversation flow more naturally.
Show genuine interest in the person you are speaking to.
Being a good listener is a big part of this, but it is not the only part. Let them speak, but ask questions, find out more about who they are, what drives them, what they are passionate about beyond just their business and their bottom line. Keep eye contact and don’t just smile and nod. Continue to keep the dialogue open with open-ended questions and dive deep into the person they truly are.
If standing against the wall with your arms crossed is your general stance at these events, it is time to make a change. If you do not appear to be open and approachable then making connections will be incredibly hard and you will be forced to do all of the work instead of people being drawn to you. Instead your body language should exude confidence, your smile should be welcome and you should be prepared to extend your hand for handshakes.
Stay off of your phone
While we bring our phones everywhere with us, there are some situations in which they do not need to be present and this is one of them. Focus your attention on the connections in front of you and not the ones on your screen.
Don’t try to talk to everyone
This is not a race to see how many people you can meet. Do not feel like you have to talk to every single person in the room. Instead, focus on making meaningful connections. Making 3 meaningful connections will mean so much more than meeting 20 people you barely remember.
Review your online presence
Many of the people you meet are going to go home and Google you. What will they find? Is your website up to date? Are your social media profiles set up in a way that displays your best work, your best qualities and show them what you can do? Are you using current pictures instead of one from 10 years ago they may not even recognize? Take stock of your online presence beforehand to avoid issues after the fact.
Make sure you follow up with your new connection in a meaningful way. If you plan to reach out via LinkedIn be sure to personalize your message. Mention something you discussed when you met. This will show them how attentive you are and that you listened well and the connection meant something to you.
Don’t become anything more than a networking vampire sucking the life out of everything you do. This will become old fast and soon networking will become something you dread. People want to work with people they feel connected to, people they like, people they enjoy spending time with and people they feel listen to their needs. Make meaningful and true connections with people and networking will become less about work and more about building something that truly makes a difference.