There are so many networking groups out there, and I personally really enjoy networking and meeting people, that it is so easy to end up spending all your time networking rather than actually working on your business.
So, before you start, work out what you want to achieve. Are you looking for support and encouragement; to learn from other business owners; to meet potential clients or customers; to find suppliers, coaches or investors? This will help guide you as to which groups to join, and which are the most effective. Your time is precious so be prepared to move on if a particular group isn’t meeting your needs.
Once you’ve found the right group, then there are a few classic mistakes you really want to avoid.
Here are my top five networking clangers:
- Not taking no for an answer
Often when people first start a business their enthusiasm for what they do borders into pushiness – which is off-putting! We have all come across people who are preachy and won’t take no for an answer. Chances are you didn’t buy from them, or if you did, you felt pressured and uncomfortable. So, yes, be passionate, but avoid being pushy; your product or service isn’t right for everyone.
- Not speaking clearly
Mumbling, addressing the floor, and speaking so quietly you can’t be heard, means your fellow attendees will have no idea what your name is or what you do. This is a missed opportunity. My recommendation is to stand up as this helps to project your voice, and look at people around the room, not just one person. Try look at someone’s forehead rather than their eyes – its less intimidating! Also practice in front of a mirror or another person, and ask for feedback from someone you trust.
- Not keeping to time
It’s amazing how many people do not actually know how long one minute lasts and so take five! This is disrespectful of people’s time and a sure-fire way to get them to switch off. Aim for around 120-150 words for a one-minute pitch and make sure your pitch is concise, builds interest and is memorable. Time is valuable so respect it and others will respect you.
- Not committing
Some people turn up to a networking group once, force their business cards on everyone, add the entire group to their email newsletters and then never turn up again. And then they complain that networking doesn’t work! It takes time to build up relationships, so once you’ve chosen which is the right group for you, attend consistently, wait to be asked before handing out your business card, and arrange those one-to-ones to really get to know people.
- Not being interested
Networking is not about selling. It’s about building relationships. When you approach other networkers, show genuine interest in them and what they do before even mentioning what you do. Build rapport and connection. Because without connection, they will quite simply never buy from you or refer you. It takes time – but the payoff makes it worthwhile.
Avoid the mistakes above and you’ll find that networking that can give your start-up business a great boost.
About the Author
Sue Fish is from Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 352,000 in more than 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members. To find your local club: www.toastmasters.org Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.