This article first appeared on September 21st, 2010.
I’ve just started up my business and realise the importance of making the right connections.
However, I hate networking and feel nervous when talking to other businesspeople.
How can I get over this and make good contacts for my business?
It is quite understandable that you will feel nervous initially but you will be surprised at how you can work on this and overcome the jitters.
The key thing is not to feel “caught out” and therefore you should plan and be prepared. If you are going to a function, ask the organisers in advance who else will be attending.
Then think about a few key points those people may be interested in. I hate to say this but if it is a very male function (yes I am stereotyping here!), I would make sure I was up-to-date with the football/sport news. This is simply to break the ice and get the conversation going.
If you are not inclined to do this, then always read the newspaper or check SmartCompany before you go to the function. Prepare a few key observations for yourself that you can open a conversation with.
You will be surprised at how this works and how you can be comfortable if you have this knowledge in advance. In addition, prepare in your mind a few standard questions “what are you interested in today, what field are you working in…”
So from my perspective, the most important thing is to be ready with some interesting and relevant questions and let the conversation roll from there.
Also, always ensure you have adequate quantities of your business card at the event and when you are introduced, immediately offer your card and ask for theirs.
Then, the part that most people miss, is the follow up. If you meet someone you think will be of interest to your business, ask if you can meet them for a coffee and call within the week (so they don’t forget who you are!).
I also feel it is smart to send a handwritten note to people you have met – these things get noticed and remembered. Most people are really happy to network and are responsive to these offers so go for it! It will pay dividends.