"Oh God. Another networking event. How can I squirm out of this one? Is a child going to be sick? Maybe a water pipe might burst?"
These are always my thoughts before having to drag my tired carcass to a networking event. It's fair to say - I'm not keen.
I don't know if this is because I don't like entering a room and introducing myself to strangers. But then if I do go with someone else, I end up hiding behind them and not saying much and looking like a bit of a buffoon. It's all very embarrassing and sweat-inducing.
Last time I went to a networking event in the evening a waiter ended up stuffing a whole prawn with a big chunk of chorizo into my mouth. I mean - What The Actual F? Not to mention the fact that I'd usually steer well clear of seafood on a buffet for the OCD food poisoning reason: you just don't know who's fingered that prawn. Anyway, I digress.
My other gripe about networking events is when those arrogant individuals thrust a business card at you. I've had this before right at the end of an event - he'd run out of time and was spraying his cards at everyone who had hands.
It all comes down to desperation. And you'll be able to smell it from a mile away. It's like you've opened the door to an evening full of cold calls. Maybe this is why I don't like networking events!
I'm always on the lookout for my next Best Future Client (BFC) - I'm just not sure if they are going to show up at a networking event.
The optimum time to network is when you really don't need to. I think you should look at networking as a time to give something back to the business world. When you don't have an agenda to push, you can listen to others and find out more about their problems and see if you have anyone in your network that can help them out.
But saying that, when has anyone ever networked when they really didn't need to!
Would you be better spending your time doing something else to generate leads? And is your BFC going to be located in such a small geographical area. You never know - you might get lucky!
GET A PLAN
Here's the thing. You need a plan. Don't be a bumbling idiot like me - it's just embarrassing!
Insert your bits here:
Hello, I’m ____name_____here____, a _______job____title______here____, who helps ______what____sector____or_____industry_____ with ____achieving_____which____goals.
This is what mine looks like:
Hello, I’m Holly Smith-Williams, a business growth strategist and content creator, who helps consultative businesses find and nurture new clients through a process that boosts brand awareness, grows business and increases revenue.
Get that rehearsed (or write it on your hand) before your next networking event and you should be off to a flying start!
But instead of kicking it old school, you need to start digital networking!
If raising your profile is on the agenda, then posting quality content on LinkedIn could be a great move. LinkedIn in no longer an online collection of CVs - it's full of lively conversations, thought pieces and much more.
My only rules for LinkedIn are:
Don't sell anything in a post
Don't sell anything in an article
Don't pitch your services to anyone in a message
Don't be a negative bore
Okay, so I've got a few rules!!
LinkedIn articles have great SEO, so if someone does a search for your name - your LinkedIn article will be up there on the first page. So if a BFC is researching you - they will be able to find all your authority-giving content straight away! Good job!
Now, you need to keep that sh*t in check! As you can imagine, my Facebook profile if full of stuff for 'friends' eyes only. No BFC is going to understand my potty mouth and all the outrageous stuff I get up to at the weekend.
But Facebook is a gold mine for finding like-minded business peeps. Of course your 'friends' might take a punt on you, but just take a tour around the masses of Facebook Groups - you will find a perfect group for you with a little bit of research.
Here are some guidelines that will apply to most Facebook Groups:
Be present and don't lurk in the shadows
Be a team player
Offer advice and help
Try not to be negative
Geek out - these people like the same things as you
Take on the knowledge
Finding the right group is an awesome thing. I belong to a couple of specific VIP Members Only Group - so you know everyone is in the same boat and really supportive. I don't know if I'll find my BFC, but I've found a lot of peers - which is great. And it's free!
I love Facebook Live. It's a super way to connect with a person or business that you follow. You can ask questions and see how others interact too.
Starting your own Facebook page to show how you can help others and attract your next BFC is a great way to connect with people. Of course you're not going to get the organic reach you used to on Facebook, but the Facebook Live function has taken social communication to a whole new level.
Also, Facebook Live gives you the chance to show your BFC who you really are and what sort of personality you have. This is a great way to build trust and get to know someone digitally (unless you have a ‘face-for-radio’).
THE MESSENGER BOT
Now you might have to stop me here because I LOVE THE MESSENGER BOT. It's my new favourite thing and can give your next BFC a load of value.
I used Many Chat to set up my bot and it's super easy. Communicating with your BFC is super fun with the Messenger Bot.
Again, the key to using this disruptive technology is to GIVE, GIVE, GIVE - not SELL, SELL, SELL. You've been warned!
Of course Twitter is in the running for digital networking. You can share and interact with others’ content - it's easy to make connections and add value for your BFC.
Twitter is an already established networking platform, and the short nature of the 140 character limit helps to keep your messages short and succinct.
What could be better than a beautiful picture to make you like and follow someone. We use Instagram as a "behind the scenes" look at the business. All social platforms are different, so you should try to keep content relevant for each one.
The key to Instagram success seems to be a mix of engaging people through intriguing and visually compelling images that show what you’re trying to sell, or what you’re about
As you can see, there are endless options for digital networking. And you also have less chance of getting food poisoning from a mouthful of unsolicited prawn!