As a micro business owner there are many hats I wear…anything from making executive decisions to putting final touches on a creative project. There are some areas I choose to focus more energy on and others I should probably put more attention to. One of these efforts that needed more devotion was networking.
About a year and half ago I decided that I really wanted to ramp up my business. With that, I determined that I needed to join a networking group in effort to get my name out there and to meet other like-minded professionals. There were a few problems with this thought. In the past when I attended these sorts of functions it was never for my own business and I always had a wing person. As a result, I never really got much out of them. When I decided to give networking another try, I knew that I needed to join an industry specific group where I wanted to focus my marketing. I heard of Temecula Valley Wedding Professionals through the grapevine and knew instantly that was the one I wanted to commit to.
Upon being accepted into the group I quickly signed up for my first meeting. As the day of the event grew closer I started to get a little nervous. I thought to myself…”uh-oh this is really happening, I am going to have to stand on my own two feet and put myself out there…” Scary! Immediately I did what any well-respected business owner would do, I called my mom. I told her all about how wonderful the event was going to be and how she just had to come (btw not beneficial for her). I continued to bring a guest with me to the first 5-6 meetings, and guess what? I never met anyone new. It became more of a social outing with my friend and just a bonus if we did any actual networking. Not really ideal in regards to the reason I joined.
Then it hit me, just like with owning your own business, you get out what you put into it.
Coincidentally, with the next event it was my turn to volunteer (to capture the evening), which also worked out great because I was running out of people to invite.
Something changed when I attended this function. I was all alone, and guess what? It forced me to be social with other people, otherwise I was going to be the person at the event taking photos and standing in the corner solo between captures. Not cool. I was forced to put on my game face, and as a result something magical happened. I met people, I handed out cards and I engaged with like-minded professionals. Shocker! After that evening I went home feeling rejuvenated and I knew I no longer needed a tag along. From then on I quickly learned a few things….
1. As mentioned above…Lose the WING PERSON. Seriously. While having someone to lean on is great, it can also hinder your success at one of these functions. You wont feel inclined to communicate with others, therefore you miss out.
2. Work the room and plan to meet 3 NEW PEOPLE per event. The networking time at an event is usually 30-45 minutes. So after saying hello to those you already know, that gives you about ten minutes or less to interact with each new person.
3. Bring plenty of BUSINESS CARDS. Nothing is worse than meeting a potential business connection or client and not having a card to give them. Yes, there are cell phones, but that also requires wasting your precious time imputing data when you could be spending time circulating the room. And remember, it is just as important to grab a card, as it is to give one. Which brings me to my next point…
4. Be sure to FOLLOW UP. After meeting with a hot lead or business affiliate be sure and send a quick note reminding them of who you are and how nice it was to meet them.
5. When it is time to grab a seat why not SIT SOMEWHERE NEW? Sure, sitting with your friends looks fun and comforting, but guess what? They already know all about you. By choosing a different seat you open yourself up to engaging with even more people. Who knows maybe you will make a new friend or two. Plus as a business owner you can never have too many people in your corner, right?
Please learn from my experiences. At your next social gathering put yourself out there and watch and see what new and wonderful business opportunities await you. I promise you won’t be disappointed. And don’t forget to be you because everyone else is already taken.