Today I have been to a networking event. Yes, you’ve read that correctly. Today I have been out, in the middle of the day, socializing with genuine adults and talking about actual, non baby related stuff. I found out about is thanks to Mr L who has been schmoozing at the International Festival of Business and, through that, found out about a Mum specific event. Ace.
Generally speaking it was fab. There was hot tea, a range of sandwiches that I didn’t have to make and some yummy chocolate eclairs. AND- I didn’t fall over, spill anything or behave in any other way that would expose me as the absolute networking novice that I am. YEY!!
The only slight fly in the ointment was trying to answer the inevitable question; ‘So what is it you do…(quick boob/badge check) Muma’…quizical voice…why would anyone put Muma on their name badge?!
Oh Lord; how DO I answer that question?
Well, the answer as it happens is, not very well. I have my fingers in a lot of pies.
- I am a blogger
- I am a project manager for Young Rewired State and
- I am organizing 3 local events.
There is no succinct way of saying this. My ‘elevator pitch’ would only be possible if the lift broke and we were struggling for conversation before being rescued by an insanely attractive fireman.
Ooops, sorry, we seem to have stumbled into my secret fantasy there for a moment…lets pull it back to business shall we?
Luckily, all of the ladies at today’s event were very patient and polite so I was able to talk to people about each of my ventures which was excellent because I am passionate about all of them and really want to get the information out to as many people as possible.
In under 2 hours I listened to 3 talks- one about the legal ramifications of ranting on social media (it’s called defamation people)…remember that time the hairdresser cut you a wonky fringe and you called her out on Facebook…turns out that could spell all kinds of trouble- don’t drink and post people!
I left feeling totally inspired, fired up for my afternoon of work and also a titchy bit afraid of the power of social media!!
So, based on today’s experience, here’s my top 5 tips for a networking novice. You can put them into practice at my networking event on July 10th 😉
1) Make an effort but wear something you are comfortable in.
I have lost count of the number of times I have taken the girls to nursery in track suit bottoms and a hoody intending to change when I got home only to find myself picking them up 9 hours later in exactly the same stuff. If you are not wearing something that makes you feel good you will be self-conscious, will be less likely to initiate conversation with people and, ultimately you will get less out of the event. You haven’t got time to waste so make sure you make first impressions count. In a good way. PS- Smart doesn’t mean expensive it means clean and ironed and, preferably, snot and sick free!!
2) Listen more than you talk.
Obviously, if everyone takes this advice on board, networking events in the future are going to be full of weird silences because everyone is being so polite they don’t actually say anything themselves. What I mean is, ask a question, actually listen and be interested in the answer. Obviously don’t become endlessly entangled in a hideous conversation about drainage or a n other topic you have no interest in but spending 5 minutes before excusing yourself to speak to someone else won’t kill you; You might not be able to do business together but manners cost nothing.
3) Get some business cards made and make sure you have all of your social media contacts on there.
I have picked up so many cards today and I think that I can make links with the majority of the people I met today. If I hadn’t taken their cards there is no way on earth I would have remembered everyone’s names and company info so, if you want people to follow-up with you, you’re going to need some. Funnily enough, I met a woman who makes them today- huh- useful hey!! Check her out at LT Print Group
4) Be able to describe what you do succinctly.
This is definitely a case of do as I say, not as I do. God life was simpler when I was a teacher!
In the business world this is called an ‘elevator pitch’ because you should be able to describe your business or what you do in the time it takes to travel up a couple of floors in an elevator OR, if you’re British, a lift.
5) Offer lots and expect little.
I met a lovely lady today who has her own recruitment consultancy. If you’re looking for a job in the North West, give her a bell. Her name is Joanne Finnerty and her website is here for your convenience! She seemed pretty on the ball with the whole networking thang and so, when we left, I asked her what her most important tip for networking was. She said that first and foremost you need to be genuine, kind and just try to be as helpful as you can to others. Seems like good advice to me, and not just for networking.
Oh, I know I said this would be my top 5 but, I’ve got to tell you one last thing…Networking is an ongoing thing. You need to go to events, go to more events and then, keep on going! Join some organisations and see what works for you. If you are looking to grow your business or return to work I would highly recommend attending a networking event. There are plenty around, where ever you are based. Check out your local Chamber of Commerce as a starter for 10, you can find where yours is here. North West ladies, you need to get yourselves over to The Women’s Org– super helpful and will totally set you on the right path.
Right, I’m off to think about my elevator pitch or possibly return to my fire fighter image! Lovely to meet all of you ladies today. Thanks for hosting Kirwans, I’ll drop you a line next time I post a Facebook tirade!