Networking can be a challenge; it can be nerve-racking, awkward, even stressful. You show up at an event, look around, see someone you think you would like to talk to and wham – you freeze up. How do I approach them? What should I say? Will they find me interesting? All these questions run through your head, and you’re sure you’ll mess it up, so you don’t try.
Kind of like dating, isn’t it?
Whether you’re currently post-single life or still out there sowing your wild oats, you will agree that trying to meet that certain someone is key to improving your personal life, just like networking with the right people is key to your business success.
One thing that made dating less of an emotional roller coaster was going out to meet people with a friend or friends – you know, your wingman/wingwoman. They backed you up if things got iffy, or “took one for the team” by engaging the person you weren’t interested in, even if they weren’t either.
The same is true in networking. Attending an event with one or more people in your current network will not only make the experience more enjoyable, it can actually give you an advantage over potential competition in the room. They need not be in the same profession as you, and it’s actually better if they aren’t because they will be trying to make different connections from yours. This in turn can lead to introductions for you, to people you weren’t even thinking about meeting.
Networking with a posse will help you benefit in other ways:
1) Multiple eyes and ears. If you’re lucky, you may engage with 7-10 people at a networking event – any meaningful conversation should last at least 5 minutes – and if there’s 50 people there, you’ve only engaged 20% of the room. Group networking increases your odds; one of your confidants may speak with (or overhear) someone who expresses a need that falls in line with your services, or they will see someone they have met before that they know you would want to meet.
2) Kudos for you. Zig Ziglar once said “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” Therefore, number one above works both ways, since you may meet someone that is a great contact for your networking partner or partners. Helping them is not only a great benefit of networking in general, but it will also inspire your partners to make an even greater effort to return the favor.
3) Dress rehearsal. When you attend events with a group, you will already be networking with them before you even arrive at the event. Make use of that time! Discuss your motive for attending, who you want to meet and share what methods of engagement you find successful. Best of all, you can try out your elevator pitch with your peers to gauge its effectiveness.
There are other reasons why networking with a posse can increase your success. Traveling with a group can reduce expenses such as tolls and parking fees. Others in your group will know about events you may not be aware of, thus giving you the ability to be more efficient in your networking efforts by choosing an event that will yield better results.
You need not have a large group to enjoy the advantages mentioned above. Attending events with just one other person can help you immensely. Even if you arrange to meet them at the event, you can still confab with them to establish why you’re there before talking with anyone else.
To be successful, networking is a necessity in today’s business world. Building your future network depends on your current one, and they will be happy to help you – and you, them.