I once was told by an introverted man that his biggest discomfort around networking was the feeling of having to ‘sell himself.’ I asked him what selling himself meant and he said he disliked talking about himself, having to remember his skills and accomplishments as a selling point and having ineffective conversations.
It occurred to me that he might have the wrong idea about what networking really is. What I tell my coaching clients, is to consider what to BRING and what to LEAVE at home when going to networking events. I will start with what to leave at home.
LEAVE AT HOME:
I call these the three T’s: Tools, Titles and Taglines. Tools are the potential strategies you think you need to bring to get the attention of potential clients/employers and appear more interesting. These include anything from being extra charming to extra bold. Leave these at home. They are not necessary.
You already know what I mean by titles right? They usually follow your name on your business card and some can go on forever. Sure, that can be impressive but that won’t get you business, clients or get you hired.
You can see where I am going with this right? Another time, at a BNI networking event, a health coach introduced herself as a “momma on a mission for high quality nutrition!”. That’s called a tagline. While it’s catchy, it doesn’t really allow me to get related, get to know her first or build rapport, where her tagline would carry more meaning to me.
WHAT TO BRING:
Bottom line is that people buy people, not products or services. There are other people that do what you do, but what has you stand out is that you are you. Instead of showing up with ‘tools’ to impress or sell people, you want to show up being you.
Networking events are not places to showcase your accolades or accomplishments. They are meant so that you create and establish relationships, make connections and build trust.
You already know what you do. You don’t need to lead with a tagline. Instead, lead with presence and authenticity. You will know intuitively what to say. When you earn people’s trust, they rarely care where you went to school or what certifications you have. Instead they want to know you are the right person they can trust to buy from or work with. Your presence and being speak way louder than anything else. Just be yourself. Establish a genuine connection without all the fluff.
Here are some guidelines to remember and practice:
- Allow yourself to show up, be present, and be yourself.
- Create a conversation where authentic connections can take place and where similarities can be explored.
- Discover opportunities in the conversation where you can share more about yourself.
- Listen to the other person to get clues on how you might be able to help them. What brought you both here in this moment?
- If you are interested in connecting further with someone, instead of asking for their business card, ask for their contact information, put it on your phone and ask if you can reach out at a later time OR set a time on your calendar to connect.
As a side note, when I go to networking events, I deliberately leave my business cards at home. Why? Because I’d rather engage in conversation and verbally exchange information that we genuinely want from each other (and intend to do something with). That feels genuine and real to me. The last thing you want, is more piles of cards that you do nothing with.
Using these guidelines will help you to show up with everything you need to engage in effective conversations. If you always remember what to BRING and what to LEAVE at home, you’ll be able to network successfully without feeling like you’re selling yourself.