Going to an Event Does Not Mean You're Networking : Under30CEO Going to an Event Does Not Mean You're Networking : Under30CEO
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Going to an Event Does Not Mean You’re Networking

| May 4, 2012 | 10 Comments

Does the fact that networking is an essential part of building your business make your heart race? Does it cause you to question if you have what it takes to do a startup? Don’t worry. I used to feel this way because I thought networking was all about going to events and schmoozing with strangers in that used-car-salesman-way.

Don’t get me wrong, going to events is part of networking. But it’s not really about schmoozing and trying to pin down everyone you can to tell him (or her) about what you’re doing. That’s a turn-off and perhaps even why you feel uncomfortable at the prospect of networking.

Networking is much more than going to events. It is really about connecting with others and creating opportunities. How can you do this? By talking to people you already know and letting them know what you are doing, by meeting new people through participating in your favorite hobbies, or by chatting with the other regulars at your local coffee shop or bar.

Think you don’t know how to talk to strangers? If you’ve ever traveled and asked a local where you can find a good burger or have talked to the person sitting next to you at the bar about baseball, you know how to network.

You may think I’m making a big leap by saying this because, after all, networking is more than just asking people questions. But, if you can ask people – strangers – a targeted question you can create an opportunity to have an exchange with them. And it’s this exchange that may lead you to form beneficial relationships that help your business.

And if you are so busy working on your startup that you aren’t leaving your office – or house – you need to carve out some time to meet people. Networking online is great, but face-to-face networking is equally important.

If you workout, but aren’t a member of a gym, you might try joining one. Gyms are great places to meet people. Money, may be tight for you, but think of a gym membership as part of an investment in your business. I’ve been going to my local New York Sports Club for years, and my startup has benefited more than once because of people I’ve met there. Bars and coffee shops are also great places to make connections.

Always carry your business card. The goal is not to shove it into every person’s face who you talk to, but to give it out when the timing is right. For instance, I’m a regular at my local coffee shop. If I happen to bump into a person who I haven’t seen in a while and the “What have you been up to?” comes up, I give the person my card, while I say, “This is what I’ve been doing. Check it out.”

Make networking easy on yourself. If you think that a relationship has to come out of every conversation you have, or you are looking to benefit your business from every conversation you have, you’ll get frustrated. Worse, people may even see you as an opportunist.

Remember, networking is not just about going to events and trying to get others to know about what you’re doing –  it’s not about seeing people as commodities. Networking is about creating relationships with people; it’s about sharing ideas; it’s about helping people and asking for help.

Suzanne Kaplan is the founder of Job Talk 4 All, which features interviews with people about their jobs and other career-related articles. As an unemployed High School English teacher, she decided that she can’t wait around for the right job, so she has tapped into her entrepreneurial spirit and is starting her own business.

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Category: Finding Customers, Startup Advice

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

    Understanding how and when customers are engaging with your brand is critical for establishing more meaningful connections with them. Keeping an eye on what information is being passed around the most let’s you know what consumers are looking for, so you can better tailor your messaging strategy. Finding a way to more accurately measure the ROI of social media will help cement its importance in a marketing strategy.

  • Suzane Kaplan

    Thanks for the input. I think what you are saying is that you can’t just create a product or a service and live in a box; you’ve got to find ways to reach out to your customers. Good points. 

  • Suzane Kaplan

    Thanks for the input. I think what you are saying is that you can’t just create a product or a service and live in a box; you’ve got to find ways to reach out to your customers. Good points. 

  • http://www.kathycondon.info/blog Kathy Condon

    Excellent article..now we just have to get people to read this. Select networking events where you know you will learn or have fun…that way you are already way ahead of others.  In my book “Face-To-Face Networking It’s All About Communication” I share some simple things you can do that will really enhance your experience–tools you need, great handshake, contact cards, nametag and note cards.  Notice none of them cost much. 

  • http://www.kathycondon.info/blog Kathy Condon

    Excellent article..now we just have to get people to read this. Select networking events where you know you will learn or have fun…that way you are already way ahead of others.  In my book “Face-To-Face Networking It’s All About Communication” I share some simple things you can do that will really enhance your experience–tools you need, great handshake, contact cards, nametag and note cards.  Notice none of them cost much. 

  • http://jobtalk4all.com/ Suzanne Kaplan

    Hi Kathy,

    Thanks for the compliment. I’ll have to look into your book. I’m a big proponent of face-to-face networking, as you can see. I’m glad you mention the handshake too. When I used to teach High School English, I taught my students how to do proper handshakes. The worst handshakes are when people don’t shake, but just give you their hands and rest it in your hand for a moment, then pull it away. 

  • Suzanne Kaplan

    Thanks to all those of you who shared this article. Makes my day when I know that someone benefits from what I’ve written.

  • John “Z” Zeydel

    Great article Suzanne – and thanks for the share – Good sales people make it look easy, don’t they – the networking, but there are strategies out there that are not “just go out there and meet people” – I think it is wonderful to share these!

  • Suzanne Kaplan

    Hi John,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, it does take some getting used to and practice. But I do believe that when a person gets into the habit of talking to people that it gets easier. 
    Suzanne

  • Suzanne Kaplan

    Hi John,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, it does take some getting used to and practice. But I do believe that when a person gets into the habit of talking to people that it gets easier. 
    Suzanne