Let’s get down to business.
Whether you’re a #bossbabe doing your own thing, a corporate queen, or juggling both (gotta love that #sidehustle!), networking is essential to success.
And when you work for yourself, networking is even more important - firstly because it’s an amazing way to grow your business. And secondly because from time to time you just need some actual human interaction!!
Last week I organised a networking event here in Surrey, and it was fantastic to meet so many like-minded women (check out my outfit below: Sheer Black Dress by NU DENMARK, Vest Top by BELLFIELD, Black Leather Effect Leggings by NU DENMARK.)
Although it’s necessary, not everyone enjoys networking and for some people it can be absolutely terrifying, which is why I’ve put together some tips on how to prepare for your next networking session.
Yes it’s a cliché, but first impressions do count, so making sure that your outfit is completely on brand is vital.
Decide what you’re going to wear at least the day before and check that everything is laundered, ironed and that your shoes are sparkling.
Make sure that you’re going to be comfortable in your outfit (especially your shoes – there can be a lot of standing around at these kind of events!).
If you know you’re a “dripper”, perhaps consider wearing a patterned blouse or dress so that if you (or anyone else – it happens!) accidentally spills some coffee down your front it won’t be really obvious and you won’t spend the rest of the meeting awkwardly covering your chest with your arm!
Your hands get a lot of air-time at a networking event – body language experts have found that hands are the first thing that the brain notices and are an indicator of trust (so never hide them away).
You’re going to be shaking other people’s hands, handing out business cards and holding cups of coffee or glasses of wine – make sure that at the very least your nails are neat and tidy, although if it’s your style and you’ve got time, I’d definitely suggest getting a manicure or gel nails before the event.
NEVER attend a networking event without having your business cards with you.
I’d recommend getting an idea of how many people are going to be there and having at least that many with you.
Keep them to hand in a stylish card holder or purse and confidently give them out to everyone you talk with (and graciously receive their cards in return!).
There’s nothing worse than to be asked what you do by an interested party only to half-stumble a sentence along the lines of “I’m um an erm accountant” (especially if you’re not an accountant!!) and then to be met with bored blank stares.
Work out what you’re going to say in advance and make it specific and compelling, for example, “I run an accountancy firm in Guildford and I specialise in working with female solopreneurs”.
This is much more interesting, makes you sound more confident and gives the person you are talking to much more to work with in terms of keeping the conversation going.
Additionally, if they know exactly what it is that you do and who it is that you work with, they are much better placed to help you find business (which is why you’re at the networking event in the first place!).
Food & Drink
Networking events are often based around food & drink, which can be tricky to handle when you’re trying to have serious and potentially life-changing conversations.
At breakfast events I always try to make sure that I’ve eaten beforehand, firstly so that I’m completely on the ball won’t have low blood sugar, and secondly because it’s not possible to hold a cup of coffee, a plate of mini pastries and shake someone’s hand! (A third consideration is that you never know what’s going to get stuck in your teeth – you don’t want a prospective client getting distracted by a rogue piece of strawberry!)
A note on caffeine – if you know it can make you a bit hyper or red-cheeked, stick to herbal tea!
Similarly, if you can’t hold your wine, stick to orange juice!
I’m a big fan of mindfulness, and if you find attending networking events stressful, give yourself enough time to sit in your car (or wherever!) before you go in to spend a few minutes getting “in the zone” and relaxing yourself.
Walk into the room with your shoulders back and a smile – the chances are that other people will be feeling nervous too and they’ll be grateful to see a friendly-looking face!
Remember – you have as much right as anyone else to be at that networking event. Prepare your outfit, your pitch and your mindset and then go and work that room and rock your business!