You know that networking is essential to growing your business, but it just isn’t your thing. It stresses you out. You’re nervous, on edge, uncomfortable. You may even hate it to the point where you just can’t force yourself to do it. This is where I come in. Let’s turn this around – I can help you enjoy networking!

Preparation is key. The better prepared you are, the better you’ll be at networking, and the more you’ll enjoy it. First of all, start with events where you have a base of knowledge or established connections. If you walk into a group where you already know a few people, or where you’ll be able to demonstrate your expertise, you’ll immediately feel more comfortable. Make a list of four or five events to get you started.

Before each event, jot down some questions related to your goals for the event. Here’s some examples of ones that work for me:

  • What’s my icebreaker question?
  • How many people do I want to reach out to at this event?
  • Is there a specific problem I can help attendees at the event solve?
  • How can people at this event help me with my business?
  • Do I need to hire someone? If so, who am I looking for?

The icebreaker question is really important. It’s a friendly, non-pressure opener that can help you strike up a conversation. I love to use a compliment/question approach. An example: “That’s an amazing necklace! Can I ask where you got it?”

Prepare a simple plan outlining professional or personal information you will share with those you meet.  Get your 30 second commercial in order when you are asked “So, what do you do?” or “Why did you come here tonight?” questions. Being ready with a quick answer can keep the conversation going without awkward moments of silence or a lengthy babbling reply.

You also need to prepare physically for the event. Projecting a professional, pulled-together image is essential. Make sure that you turn in early the night before and get plenty of sleep. It’s hard to be sharp when you’re tired. Dress for success!  Choose one of your favorite outfits that shows you are a professional.

Leave early enough to arrive at the event with some time to spare. Take a few minutes, whether in your car or the restroom, to check your appearance, take a few deep breaths, and run through your script answers one more time. Remember that effective networking isn’t a contest. You don’t win or lose; nobody knows what goals you set for yourself but you.

Afterward, make sure to put all your contact information in one place. Take some time within the next week to reach out via email or picture text (that’s my favorite) to each new contact. You can simply thank them for their time and let them know it was great talking to them, ask them for coffee or offer to share a connection with them who could help them in some way.

Then get ready for the next event – with each one, you’ll love networking even more!