What’s the strangest place you’ve ever given out a business card? I’ve handed cards out at two children’s birthday parties in the last few months. Don’t worry, we were invited! It just so happened that the conversation got around to work.
I know a lot of people who avoid networking events like the plague. They’re just too scary. I used to go to corporate networking events with a load of other people from my office. We’d all eat the free food and spend the whole evening talking to each other. I’m fairly sure that wasn’t the idea.
The rise of social media and online marketing has freed shy people up to start conversations they wouldn’t have in person. I’m part of a wonderful online community that has brought me a fair bit of work but has also taught me a lot. Somehow it’s easier asking a ‘silly’ question to people you’ve never met.
Do you carry business cards with you wherever you go? If not, why not? If I can hand cards out at birthday parties you never know what other opportunities might arise.
The thing is, there’s a tendency for people to think of their ‘network’ solely in business terms. In reality, your network is everywhere. It isn’t just business contacts. It’s your friends, family and the other mums at the school gate. They’re the people in the pub and the societies you join.
My childminder introduced me to a new client and she, in turn, invited me along to a friendly networking group. The man who built my website is in the triathlon club with my husband.
It’s not just about who you know, it’s who they know.
My husband despairs of those conversations between women that start with “I love your shoes.” Especially as I have nightmares finding shoes that fit me.
However, those conversations can be great for business, particularly if you’re wearing something you make and sell yourself. If you can respond to a compliment about your earrings with “thank you, I make them myself” you may just have found a new customer.
The key is to be prepared with a response and try not to let shyness get in the way. I know it can be hard to accept a compliment graciously. Just practice saying thank you. You can practice what you’ll say in front of the mirror if it helps.
Remember, you don’t have to be pushy. If someone likes your stuff and asks where they can buy it, be ready to hand them a card.
If you’re in a service based business like me, you won’t have that as a starting point. You can still be prepared with a one liner that sums up your business when people ask you what you do. The version you use at networking events (if you go to them) can be slightly more formal that the one you have for everyday conversations.
You don’t have to sell yourself aggressively; in fact it would be weird if you did. Just be yourself and you never know where it could lead.
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