Like so many of you, I am an introverted entrepreneur, which means I have to go to a lot of networking events. And what is the worst nightmare for an introvert? That's right! A networking event. There is absolutely nothing worse than going into a roomful of strangers where you have to mingle, meet people, and talk to everybody. Absolutely horrifying right? But since I’ve been an entrepreneur for almost 20 years, I have been to my fair share of networking events. And over the years, I have created sort of a framework for myself, as an introvert, to go to a networking event and avoid completely draining myself, to meet people and leave a really good impression, and to build long-lasting connections.
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Here are my seven steps to ace any networking event as an introvert and build lasting connections and clients.
#1: Set an intention.
Before you even walk out of the house, you need to set an intention. What are you planning to achieve at this networking event? What is your goal? Yes, you are an introvert. You probably don't want to be there, but you're already going, so what is the goal? Is the goal just to meet a few people and to walk away knowing a few more people? Is the goal to meet a specific person? Is the goal to a make a specific connection? Is the goal to sign a new client? What is the goal? What is your intention?
You need to be very clear why you're going to the event. If you are not sure why you're going, as an introvert, you’re most likely going to stand in a corner and try not to meet anybody. On the other hand, if you set an intention or a certain goal, such as I'm going there to meet 10 people, and assure yourself that's all you’re going to do, then this is your intention and the reason you're going. You have a plan.
#2: Be yourself.
This is so important. If you've gone to a fair share of networking events, you know you've met a whole bunch of people who are total fakes. You can spot a fake a mile away. You know they don't have the size of business that they pretend they do. You know they're not as influential as they say they are. So be yourself. Don't try to impress somebody. Just be who you are.
Don't underestimate your achievements either. You have a business and you are bringing value to your clients every single day. You have something to give to the world, remember that, but you have to be yourself. You have to talk like you. You have to behave like you. You have to be who you are because remember, people can spot a fake and they will not build a real genuine connection with that person.
A lot of people have this misconception that a networking event is all about talking. This cannot be further from the truth. A networking event is all about listening, particularly if you are an introvert. What do we introverts do really well? What comes natural to us? Listening, we’re great at it! We may hide behind listening because it's easier for us than to go and talk. So use that strength which you are already great at. Listen, let the other person talk and truly listen, don’t just pretend that you're listening and at the same time look around. Actually listen. Absorb what the other person is saying. Try to find some common ground with that person. Ask questions. You're going to find common interests. You're going to find common acquaintances.
As you're asking questions you let the other person speak some more and expand to you some more and relate to you some more. And what's funny, even though the other person is talking and you're listening, they feel that they're building a connection with you. So be a listener and give somebody a chance to talk, not only will they appreciate it, but they'll remember you for it. And you know what happens after a person talks for a long time? In the end they actually say, hey I've been talking this whole time. What do you do? Tell me about yourself. Well at this point, the other person is really interested in you. You already spent a few minutes chatting, even though you were listening, so it's a lot easier for you to turn the tables and start talking about yourself, because you didn't initiate the discussion about yourself. You're just answering the question from the other person to whom you've been listening.
#4: Say what you do, focusing on the benefits to your clients.
Now we are finally at the part of our conversation, where the other person said, “Okay, so what do you do?” Now it's your moment to shine. This is why you came. You want to introduce yourself and let the other person know exactly what you do. Let's say you answer, “I do web design.” Was it informative? Sort of, but web design means a million different things to different people. It is not clear exactly how you can help your clients when you just say I do web design. Do you just build websites for everybody? Do you build websites for logic operations? Do you build websites for small business? Do you build websites for a specific niche?
You have to be specific because the reason you're telling the other person what you do is so the other person can immediately start thinking, oh, who do I know that can benefit from what this person does? And if you're not clear on the benefit, then the person is not going to figure all this out. So what would be a better answer? For example, “I design and build websites for small business owners that help them convert incoming leads into prospects and clients.” Or focusing on a niche, “I build websites for real estate agents, that help them highlight the properties that they listed and convert more leads into buyers.” Now you stated not just what you do, but exactly how you can help the person you are talking to or people that this person knows, which is very important at a networking event.
#5: Focus on giving, not receiving.
Just as a lot of people go to a networking event to talk rather than to listen, a lot of people go to a networking event to receive rather than give. There are fewer givers than receivers but everybody remembers givers. So as you're talking to the other person, as you're listening, you should be thinking how I can help? What I can give to the other person? Maybe I know somebody who would benefit from the other person's business. Maybe I know a good potential partner for this person. Maybe I have an idea that can improve this person's business. There are so many things that you can give if you listen. So as you are listening, don't think oh I wonder what I can get from this person? Always think, I wonder what I can give to this person. You start with giving and receiving will come. This is the golden rule, not only in networking events but in business in general and in public speaking.
#6: A call to action.
Don't end the conversation with, “Well it was nice talking to you, enjoy the rest of the evening.” That doesn't work really well. What you want to do is you to finish with a call to action. You've talked to this person. You've listened for a while. You probably had a chance to talk to yourself. You found some common ground. You built a connection. Now it's time to finish strong. A call to action could be anything. It could be, “I really enjoyed meeting you. Let's exchange business cards and have lunch next week.” It could be, “I know somebody who may benefit from your service. I am going to email you the name and number.” It could be, “You know I have a couple of ideas how you can take your business to the next level. Let me email you next week.” Anything that has to do with giving could be a good call to action.
#7: Follow up.
After the networking event is done, and you go home or you go back to the office, remember to always follow up. First, you always need to follow up on your calls to action and do whatever you promised to do. A second way you can follow-up is with people that maybe didn't have a specific call to action, you can follow-up with them by letting them know it was really nice to meet them. In your follow-up, whether it's a follow-up email or follow-up phone call, you want to mention something personal that this person said. Remember how you were listening? You were paying attention and you were looking for common ground so you have a lot of information in your head about this person. Go ahead and mention it. You're going to make such an impression because not a lot of people really pay attention at networking events. They may remember your name and your face, but they probably don't remember what you said. If you remember some details, some specifics from what the person was telling you, that's going to make a huge impression. The other person is going to see you as somebody who listens, pays attention and is a great person to know.
In summary, here are my seven steps to ace any networking event as an introvert and build connections and clients. Step number one, set an intention. Step number two, be yourself. Step number three, listen. Step number four, say what you do focusing on the benefits to your clients. Step number five, focus on giving, not receiving. Step number six, a call to action. And step number seven, follow up.
I hope you found these seven steps helpful and I wish you lots of success. Take care!
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