Guest post by Jules Taggart of Kickstart Kitchen
Have you been building your business in a bubble? Believe me, I get it – I’ve got to tweet to build my brand and blog to pay the bills too, but there’s this little old thing called In Real Life (IRL) networking and as it turns out, it still works like a charm.
So, last week I decided to get out of my own personal bubble and do just that. I drove from my home in San Diego to Los Angeles for the YFELA event. If you haven’t been to one of these IRL events yet, make it happen! I met some amazing and inspiring women, deepened several online relationships, and have new collaboration projects in the works all because of this one event.
So, what holds us back from networking in real life? Ummm, it feels a little 2002, right? I don’t know about you guys, but I clearly remember my mother putting on her power suit (you know the one I’m talking about…the one with the fierce shoulder pads) and marching off to swap business cards with 50-year-old bankers and insurance agents. That sounds perfectly awful and it’s exactly what holds most of us YFEs back from IRL networking.
But networking doesn’t have to suck. Not if you follow this one, simple rule: Don’t be that girl. Here are a few tips for avoiding that-girl-syndrome at your next networking event or conference so you can make meaningful connections that turn in to some major bling down the road.
Do: Find the host first.
Why? Because she knows every single person in the room! With social media driving many event invitations, it’s easy to figure out who the organizer is and introduce yourself. Tell her you’re a first timer and ask her who you should meet next. She wants you to feel comfortable and fall in love with her event so you’ll bring your friends next time. She’ll happily introduce you to someone cool.
Don’t: Monopolize anyone’s time.
Ok, this isn’t PC, but I’m just going to say this – nobody wants to get trapped with you all night long. Even if you are literally the coolest person in the entire world, it’s unlikely that someone wants to chat it up with you for longer than a few minutes. You never want to hear these dreaded words: “Do you know where the bathroom is?” That’s girl-code for “let me breathe!” Be mindful of that and make sure others feel comfortable moving on.
Do: Be a walking invitation.
You know that girl who’s standing by the bar, looking intently at her phone with a furrowed brow? She’s not in some serious not-to-be-interrupted business text sesh. She’s over there feeling awkward and playing Angry Birds. She would MUCH rather be talking with other people than hanging out solo, so invite her to join you. Try something like this: “Hi, I’m Jules – I just met this girl named Lindsay who does [blah, blah, blah] and I’d love to introduce you.” It’s that simple. Don’t put her on the spot and ask her to talk about her business just yet. Just invite her in to the conversation.
Don’t: Start a conversation by talking business.
Ok, maybe you’re thinking: “This is a networking event! I am supposed to talk about my business.” I know girl, but you gotta ease into it. So many people are eager to share what they do that they start a conversation by shoving their card in your face. When was the last time you met a new friend or business partner because she forced her business card on you? Yeah — don’t be that girl. Focus on being interested rather than being interesting. Ask meaningful questions and others will naturally do the same for you.
Do: Focus on meeting just one person.
If you go into a networking event thinking you’re going to meet 50 people who will want to buy something from you instantly you will leave with shoulders slumped, dragging your Louboutin’s in frustration. Instead, go in with the intention of finding one person that you want to have one more IRL conversation with. No selling. No awkward moments. No lifetime commitments. Just find one person that you think you could meet for coffee because you enjoy their company.
Don’t: Skip the follow up.
Remember all those business cards you collected? Make time the day after an event for follow up. Connect on Twitter, send a quick email, checkout their blog. Don’t wait until a couple days after the event – the moment will have passed. Do it right away.
As our business connections become increasingly digital, the need for face-to-face, IRL interaction becomes even more important. Sometimes you just need to get dressed up, clink martini glasses, and do the hip-bump-high-five thing with other women!
So, what’s one thing that you can do to make your next networking event comfortable and productive? Share your favorite tips for working the room in the comments below.
Jules Taggart is the Co-Founder of Kickstart Kitchen. She’s on a mission to help women entrepreneurs to take that brilliant idea they’ve been sitting on and show them how to turn it into a thriving, profitable business. Catalyst, Kickstart Kitchen’s newest program, helps women create a plan for growth, rally a game changing team, and uncover collaboration opportunities to take their business to the next level.