When I was considering setting up to begin my virtual assistant journey a few years ago, I was excited but knew it would be tough and a roller coaster of a ride. I like admin, organising and helping others and I had a good idea about the business side of a business. However, there was one thing that I had not thought about… networking and actually talking to people!
What’s wrong with that you may be thinking. Well that’s fine if you are confident but the thought of going into a room full of strangers, standing up and talking about myself makes my stomach go into knots.
Networking is a key part of your business and a great way to promote your services, make contacts and build business relationships.
There are different types of networking events; free or paid, formal or informal, held in the morning, lunchtimes or evenings. It is all about finding the right networking group that works for you and fits in around your schedule.
My sister is a graphic designer and runs her own business, not only that, she set up and successfully runs a local morning networking group. I am very proud of her success and you would think that attending your sibling’s networking group would make it easier but it didn’t.
The first time I attended the networking group as a new business owner and had to stand up and deliver my 60 seconds’ pitch was terrifying. When it was my turn, I stood up and spoke as fast as I could for what seemed a life time but only turned out to be 30 seconds.
I would like to say that networking has got easier and I think it has over time. My confidence has grown and my 60 seconds’ pitch is now 50 seconds so that is an improvement yay! I often check out tips on how to improve my pitch and confidence and try to put them into practice.
These are my tips to help overcome networking fears:
Practice your elevator pitch
Preparation is key. I write down what I want to say and practice delivering it quite a few times before I go networking. I often taken my notes with me so I can refer to them and a lot of the time I don’t say exactly what I planned to but now I don’t worry as much.
If you are not sure what to say, stick to the basics; who you are, what you do and what you are looking for. With time and confidence, you can expand what you say, but remember to end your pitch with your name, company and tagline if you have one.
Get to the event early
I hate being late for anything and I have found it is easier to meet and welcome others when they arrive as I feel a bit more in control. More often than not, people will come over to say hi and break the ice over a cup of coffee.
Listen to what others have to say and ask questions. I have met with business owners who talked about themselves for the entire conversation and did not ask a question about me or my business. I don’t think that networking is about selling to someone the minute you meet them and much prefer to have a two-way conversation.
First impressions do count and even if you are not feeling confident; take a deep breath and smile. It is important to be confident (even if you don’t feel it) and believe in what you are saying. If you don’t believe it, then no-one else will either. Equally as important, is to be yourself; people invest in people that they like, know and trust.
Find a networking buddy
If you find going to an event on your own daunting, then take someone with you to give you the extra bit of courage you need. You could also find out who is running the event, contact them prior to the event and talk to them when you arrive.
Take business cards
Do double check that the information on your cards is correct and up to date. If you need to, you can make notes on the cards that you receive which will help as a prompt when you look at them later.
It does take time, but the more networking you do, the easier it will become.
Networking events are a great way to meet new people, make contacts and talk to other entrepreneurs about your business. Don’t forget to connect with the people you meet on social media and follow up with an email.
Why not set yourself a challenge to write your pitch, take a deep breath and attend a networking event? You can do it!
To learn more about Nikki and her business, visit her website!
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