8 tips to help with your biggest networking challenges
14th, Oct 2022
Some people are naturally good networkers. They like to meet and get to know people and build strong relationships. Others find networking difficult and need help developing the right skills. One of the best ways to learn is by talking to others about how they address their biggest networking challenges. Recently, I led a discussion on Women and Networking for a local chamber of commerce. The group approached me about doing a program on how networking can be different and more challenging for women. We decided to do a group discussion so we could all share insights and tips with each other.
The most interesting thing was that most of the networking challenges discussed were not unique to being a woman; they were universal. Here are some of the top takeaways:
1. Getting known by others. You are at an event meeting new people. They know nothing about you or your business. How can you quickly educate them about yourself without sounding like you are trying to “sell” them? While it’s tempting to talk about yourself, it’s best to keep it short and sweet when talking about your business and focus on getting to know the other person. You will be liked and remembered more for listening than talking. You can always follow up with another meeting to share more details about what you do and how you may be able to help each other.
2. Minimizing time with the person who is too salesy. Often at events, you get stuck with someone who monopolizes your time trying to make a sales pitch and not really interested in hearing about you. Women especially can sometimes be too courteous and find it difficult to get away from such a person. However, there are many ways to extricate yourself from this situation including simply stating politely that you want to go mingle, you are leaving to get food/drinks, that you’ve just seen someone you need to talk to, etc. The point is to not let the person keep you from networking with others and not worry about offending the person.
3. Standing out. When you are networking, usually, you only have a short time to make an impression. You may also have competitors in the room. The best way to stand out is to have a clear idea of your personal brand – how you differ from others and what people should expect from you personally and professionally. While you shouldn’t go on and on about yourself, you should be able to provide hints of your personal brand in even short conversations. Be honest and authentic, tell stories that reveal something about your personality and what you value, share unique experiences, ask questions and offer to help the person.
4. Helping others. It’s better to give than receive in your personal and professional life. However, there is a limit to this. Sometimes you have to say no because of the monetary or time commitment. There is nothing wrong with this. You may want to develop some guidelines and responses to explain when and how you will help. For example, if you are being asked to donate to a cause, you can set a limit on what you can donate and let others know when they should contact you with a request.
5. Limiting the number of groups/events you participate in. There are endless opportunities to network. However, it’s important to focus on a few groups rather than casting a wide net. In addition, it is best to limit how many meetings/events you attend. Most of the women in the discussion group, attend one or two events per week and only belong to a small number of organizations so they have time to develop relationships.
6. Being consistent in your activities. We all have busy lives but we have to make time for networking and follow-up. Because of COVID, many of us have gotten out of the habit of attending live events and meetings and it’s easy to talk yourself out of going. However, regularly showing up is the key to successful networking. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in person all the time and you don’t have to spend a ton of time with any one individual but you have to consistently stay visible.
7. Using other methods to supplement in-person meetings. No one has time to follow up with everyone they meet. You need other ways to stay top of mind. Connecting and engaging with others via social media is an effective way to help you build and maintain your relationships. Email also serves that purpose – both individual emails and an email newsletter.
8. Sticking with it. There will be times that you feel like giving up but don’t. It takes time to be successful –months or even years. That doesn’t mean you don’t prioritize some relationships over others. That’s where it is helpful to have other ways to keep in touch. You may not stick with a particular networking group but if you are connected via social media and email, you are still in front of them in some way.
What are your networking challenges? For more tips, see Do’s and Don’ts for Successful Networking.
Thanks to the Plainview-Old Bethpage Chamber of Commerce Women’s Group for hosting the discussion.
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