by Kathi Quinn, Membership Director
One of the best parts of my job is observing the enthusiasm of new members as they embark on their journey into Chamber membership. Members often tell me that one of the main reasons they join the organization is the ability to make new contacts and connections at our networking events. Networking is a critical skill that can help you build a brand, grow your business and develop confidence. Yet, for many people the thought of networking can be intimidating. Here are a few tips to get it right!
Challenge Yourself. Set a networking goal for yourself before walking into the room. One that I like to use is to meet three new people. Seek out those you don’t know, before catching up with colleagues. Then invite a colleague over to join the conversation, make an introduction and move on to another new person! Exchange business cards before you move on if appropriate. Don’t forget follow up. Schedule a coffee or lunch with a new contact that you met.
Perfect your pitch. A short, well-crafted pitch can make the difference between being memorable and forgettable. Be clever, yet clear and concise about who you are, and what you do. New to networking pitches? The Chamber has a team of ambassadors who can help you navigate networking, and members are willing to help you become First Friday ready!
Don’t be on time. Arrive early and smile! Unlike social events – being early to a networking event gives you key advantages. You can scope out the room, get comfortable and check out the attendee list before the venue fills up. Attendees will see you as they enter. Greet them with a smile – ice broken! This makes starting a conversation with someone you have never met before – easy. Being fashionably late might work for a party, but not in networking. If you are an introvert or shy, consider being early and smiling your go-to networking tools.
Be a gatherer. Make it your goal to “gather” information! Approach a networking event from the idea you give (your attention) rather than get (a sale). People love to talk about themselves! The more you know about another person, the better your chances are in determining if they can be a customer for you, provide you with a referral, or be a collaborator. “Gather” details about them: how they chose their field, what they are passionate about. Be friendly and professional. For example, it’s okay to say, “How long have you been a widget-maker?”, but don’t say “I sell widget-supplies, want to buy from me?” You may be surprised at what you gain when you focus on the other person!
Face time matters. Don’t be a one and done networker. Members of the group need time to get to know you and to trust you before they will do business with you. Connect with members by participating in both large and small group events to meet with the broadest range of professionals. Don’t forget to try all of our opportunities such as educational seminars, advocacy programs and committees. Showing up and getting involved helps deepen your connections.