4 Tips for Networking Like a Pro

Networking Tips Windy Lawson

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Once upon a time, I loathed networking. It felt fake and gross to me. And I sucked at it. Only once I realized the problem with networking was me, my approach, and my expectations could I flip the switch on my attitude, which changed everything. Today, I am a networking machine, and I hope these four tips for network like a pro will help you experience the same change.

The Microbusiness Owner Advantage to Leverage Tips for Networking

As someone who spent most of her networking life in Corporate America, I can tell you the microbusiness owner has a clear advantage in networking. As a microbusiness or small business owner, you are your business. You aren’t representing some ginormous conglomerate with offices all over the globe. 

The heart of networking is bringing people together. And when you represent your business, the people you meet recognize that the company is you. If they choose to work with you, they will work with you- not some other chic in some other department. YOU. The person they know from their networking group.

The Shop Local movement has made it more attractive than ever to work with other small businesses. People want to support the small businesses in this country. And if they know, like, and trust you as a person, they are more likely to shop from or work with you. 

Networking is how they get to know you so that they can like and trust you. 

Paid vs. Free Networking Group

There are approximately eleventy-billion different free community groups you can join. Between Facebook, LinkedIn, and Meetup, the opportunities to connect with others with similar interests are unlimited. The cost of free-fifty-free is appealing. You can join 15, 20, 100 groups and test out the waters.

There are only slightly fewer paid options, which may be virtual or in-person groups. The cost and benefits of different paid groups can vary widely, from next-to-nothing to holy-crap-that’s-a-lot. 

Why Pay for Groups When You Can Join Others For Free? 

While I am a member of a few free groups, my networking efforts are focused on connecting with people in the paid groups because I know if people are paying to be there, they are serious about networking. 

It’s hit or miss to make meaningful connections in free groups. People may show up, then disappear for months. Or worse, they may only appear in the free group to drop a link to their latest sale and then never interact again. 

It took me five years of networking in free groups to achieve the same results from three months in a paid networking group. Where we invest our money, we invest our time. When something is free, we don’t lose value if we don’t participate. But, with a paid membership, we invest our time at the same level we invested our money. 

If you’re interested in joining a paid networking group, check out Polka Dot Powerhouse. They are a global connection company for women and have monthly in-person and online meetings. 

Regardless of what type of networking group you join, use these four tips for networking like a pro.

#1: Have a Goal

Sure, it’s to meet people, but what kind of people? Are you looking for customers, partners, collaborators? Are you looking for people who can help you learn a skill or you can outsource work to? 

Why are you in the group? How will you determine if it is a good investment of your time, money, or both? 

Whenever you go to a meeting or have any interaction within the group, what is the goal? 

Every month, I attend at least two networking meetings. Before the meeting, I review the RSVP list of attendees and determine who are two contacts I would like to connect with after the meeting. Depending on how much time is available, I may do some light internet stalking to learn more about the attendees to help me decide who would be a good contact for me, based on my goals. 

Also prior to each meeting, I review my introduction/elevator pitch and make adjustments as needed. If I’m launching a new product, I make sure I have all the necessary info to share. 

It’s my job at the meeting to make people want to connect with me later.

The same is true for free online groups, where interaction is limited to commenting and posting within the group space. If you have a goal of meeting 10 new potential clients, you know how to approach your interaction within the group. 

I know this sounds simplistic, but you’d be surprised how many people join a networking group, whether it’s free or paid, and don’t really know what they want to get out of it.

#2: Have a Killer Elevator Pitch

Your elevator pitch, a 60-90 second introduction, is your chance to shine. This is not the time to be wishy-washy or indecisive about who you serve and how you help her. 

For a free group, include this in your introduction post to the group, along with a Call To Action that entices people to connect with you. 

If you have in-person or virtual meetings, use your elevator pitch as your introduction. 

It’s my job at the meeting to make people know me.

Need help writing your elevator pitch? Check out this blog post

#3: Be Memorable 

Understand that everyone in the group or meeting is trying to stand out and remember everyone else they met. You are making it easier for them if you are intentionally memorable. 

Now, I’m not saying you need to roll up with pink hair, glitter, and sequins {which, no judgment, if that’s your style} and make a monumental entrance. 

You can memorable for the way you tell a story, sharing an ancedote that makes people laugh, or for your personal style. It can be a simple signature of yours that helps people remember you. I’m the girl with the cat eye. 

It’s my job at the meeting to make people remember me.

#4: Be Okay with Screwing Up

We put so much pressure on ourselves to portray ourselves how we think other people want us to be.

Let that soak in for a sec. We get all worked up worrying that other people won’t see us as professional, capable, worthy of our position. And we have zero control over what people think. Zero.

I could say all the right things, act all the right ways, and someone, somewhere will think, “Who does she think she is?” I can’t control it. So why waste my time? 

Don’t worry about sounding dumb, being silly, or putting your foot in your mouth. 

I know it is hard to introduce yourself to strangers. It is uncomfortable to go into a room where you don’t know anybody and hope they like you, hope you fit in, hope they don’t think you’re weird and hope they want to do business with you. That’s human.

You’re probably going to stumble over some words. You may say something you wish you hadn’t; you might put your foot in your mouth. But the only way you will get better is to keep doing it. Practice makes proficient. The more you do it, the easier it will become. 

You will rebound. No one has ever died from saying the wrong thing in a networking group. I promise you that you’ll be okay. 

So take these tips for networking and go out to network like a rock star! Whether that means networking online or IRL- in real life- go out there and meet new people. Which of these tips for networking will you practice first?

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