Networking: [noun] A system of trying to meet and talk to other people who may be useful to you in your work.
Makes it seem like networking is a purely selfish thing, doesn't it? Well, it is, to an extent. But networking is about more than just finding new people to use - it's about solving problems, making friends (yes, actual people you can hang out with and talk about stuff that isn't business), and building your confidence and social skills.
As much as we all know that it's good to network, it's just not everybody's cup of tea. We know how stressful networking can be (especially if you’re not the talkative type), so we’ve put together a few tips to help you out.
1. Remember that it's not about you.
Make your conversation revolve around the people you're with, and how you can genuinely help solve their problems. Until this thought guides and drives your every networking effort, you may get loads of contacts and business cards, but zero deals.
2. Be selective.
Not everyone will be interested in connecting with you, not everyone who likes you will be interested in your business, and not everyone interested in your business will become a customer. Keep that in mind, and prioritize accordingly (See, networking is primarily a selfish pursuit). This doesn't mean that you should ignore everyone who isn't guaranteed to give you business - by all means, meet up for pizza and drinks later, if you desire - but if you're at an event primarily is to make business deals, don't ignore your potential customer for casual talk.
3. Get out of the house.
Networking never happens at home (unless you throw amazing house parties), so it's probably a good idea to go out and meet people. You don't have to limit yourself to designated networking events, either. Go to coffee shops or bars where like-minded people tend to hang out, work out of a coworking space once in a while (or every day, if you want), join an online community of business people and contribute to their discussions. Just put yourself out there.
Show genuine interest in what your companion is saying. Ask questions. If possible, do some research before the event, so you know what to ask about. And pay attention, you just might discover something you could really help them with, or something they could do for you. But remember, it's never about you.
5. Be yourself.
Trying to be someone else will only make you seem awkward, and that will just make everyone uncomfortable. Loosen up and enjoy yourself!
Got any more tips? Share them in the comments below.