I used to be shy. I had to shed the shy in order to work as a journalist. But when I first started working as a small business owner in Raleigh, I had to adjust yet again, learning how to network.
While not as scary as public speaking, networking isn’t easy. Here are my 10 tips for getting it done.
1. Get a name tag. Order yourself a permanent, magnetic name tag. Not only will it save your clothes from stickers and pin holes, but you can add your logo and display your name and other info printed clearly and easy to read.
2. Schedule the time. Some days, you just want to go home and relax instead of facing a crowd of strangers. But mark that event on your calendar and make an effort to go.
3. Try multiple groups. One group may not feel like a great fit. One group might feel too much like a high school clique. (That’s happened to me.) Try a few to find those that provide value for your time.
4. Stay close to home. Although I encourage people to try multiple groups, for most micro business owners, you don’t need to waste your gas driving all over the Triangle. Instead, search out the groups in your neighborhood or city first.
5. Take a deep breath before you go in. Networking can be scary, but remember: the people in there are also looking to meet people.
6. Start with someone you know. Or take someone you know. If you meet a buddy there or bring one with you, it might help you feel more comfortable.
7. Don’t stay with someone you know. It’s easy to gravitate toward the familiar, but after your initial chit chat session, wander around the room. Make it a goal to talk to five new people.
8. Put your phone away. I tend to walk up to people standing alone who look like they need someone to talk to. Frowns, starting at a cell phone — these things send a signal that you don’t want to talk to me. So smile and look around. It feels awkward, but someone will relieve you soon.
9. Aim for quality, not quantity. If you’re shy, you might try having a contest with your buddy to see who can meet the most people just to get over your fear. But networking is really about building relationships with people so that they think of you next time they need your product or service or know someone else who does.
10. Go to the same group multiple times before giving up. Unless you just get a bad vibe or that high school clique, know that it takes time to build those relationships. You won’t always get a new client in the first visit.
What networking tips do you have for micro business owners?