Networking, so I am told, has a major part to play in building a business. It’s not just who you know, but where you meet them and who you know that they know, that counts! If I am honest, that is how I found some of my previous jobs so it obviously can work.
But networking is not as simple as it first seems. For a start, you have to check you are wearing the right clothes. After all, you don’t want to be too smart for a relaxed business get together or too casual for a more formal affair. You also have to be properly armed with your essential business cards, as well as being appropriately suited and booted.
The most daunting prospect for many new business people like me, is the moment when you are put in the limelight and are asked to pitch your business. I found it a bit like being back at school and being asked to read out an essay with 30 pairs of eagle eyes piercing you to the spot.
Some newcomers, like me, stutter and stammer through those vital 60 seconds and are obviously relieved when it is all over. At some groups, if you overstep the mark, you are halted by the ring of a bell. A few entrepreneurs write down their speeches and read them robotically. Others like clockworks, ramble though their monologues in such a well rehearsed manner that you lose interest in what they are saying, never mind what they do. It seems the best way to get noticed is to be like the most professional presenters who take time to grab their listeners’ attention and appeal to their ever increasing desire to attract vital clients and make a quick quid or fifty!
I was told by a veteran networker to practice my pitch at home in front of my most attentive audience, my mirror! It worked! I obviously had no problem with my speech and it went even better under the scrutiny of fellow entrepreneurs, or did it?
The most embarassing time networking is when you turn up to a meeting to find there is another attendee equally skilled and in the same profession as you. Suddenly you feel your heckles rise and an adrenalin rush that only true champions experience. That’s when, with sharpened senses, you give your best performance with matchless ease.
Some networking organisations themselves can sometimes be daunting if not a bit frustrating. Just as you are getting used to your new position, they move the goalposts and you find yourself scoring an on own goal. Some groups only allow one player of a certain skill set on the field at a time and if you are slow at playing by their rules, they take their bat home or substitute you before you know it. You are often expected to tow the line and play by their rules. Some are fun, one or two have a few carefully selected members, while business is brisk at others and ‘you scratch my back if I scratch your’s’ is the name of the game.
Whichever type of group you prefer, if you are like me and enjoy socializing and talking about yourself, you will flourish and will soon find you have made some new friends and perhaps hooked a client or two!