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How to Create a Network When You Hate Networking

Sep 27, 2022

How to Create a Thriving Network (even if you hate networking)

We KNOW we need to build a network to build a business.  We can see that the most successful business people are usually also those that are constantly connecting and expanding their networks.  A strong network creates a constant flow of ideas, collaboration opportunities, and support.


But dang if we don’t dislike actually doing it.


For the lucky few, networking comes naturally, and they thrive on getting to know new people, nurturing relationships, and being that person that always seems to know everyone. 


Then there’s the rest of us.


Almost half the population is believed to be to be introverted, and for those of us that identify with those characteristics, networking is a painful activity, ranking somewhere between an upset stomach and a root canal, depending on the crowd.


So, for those of us that aren't naturally the life of the party, here are 7 tips to help you feel comfortable, and make the most of your time at in person and online networking opportunities:


  1. Decide on your purpose 


The very first step in networking is deciding on what you’re looking to gain from your network. Is it more customers, advisors, or perhaps contracts? The purpose of your network will determine what type of contacts you are looking to make, and therefore where you will go to find them.


  1. Make a plan for the event

Once you have determined what event you will attend, you need to make a plan. Often our first mistake is just showing up, without any idea of what we are going to do.  


Decide ahead of time, why are you there and what do you want to accomplish before you leave?

  1. Get some advance info

Ask around to find out what events your peers have attended.  What they thought, how did it go?  The more intel you have ahead of time, the more comfortable and effective you are going to be at the event.

  1. Remember it's not just you

A lot of people are uncomfortable at networking events. It's reassuring to know that it's not just you. Likely about half of the people in the room feel exactly like you do. 

  1. Be prepared

Take your business cards, carry a pen, and have your elevator pitch prepared and practiced so you aren't stuck or stumbling, when people ask what you do. 

  1. Lead with value

Networking is about making personal connections and building relationships that are mutually beneficial. So, start by finding some value you can give to the other person. 


If you are at an online event, share an article they may find interesting, provide them with a referral, or find something else that has no immediate benefit to you. This will build trust, and when you are nervous, it's easier to ask questions and listen, than to talk.  


People love to talk about themselves, and you learn more from listening anyway.  So ask a question, and the just listen and look for opportunities.


  1. Have a "next step"

You are there to make connections, not just to chat.  So, when you leave a conversation, ask for their permission to contact them, and suggest a goal or timeline for the next meeting or touch point. 

For example "I'm so glad we ran into each other tonight, I really enjoyed speaking with you.  Is it okay if I send you an email next week with the details of that service we were talking about?" If that feels too direct, you can offer to send them a link to that article you were talking about, the contact details for that person you thought they should connect with, or something else that gives you a reason to stay in touch.


So now you’ve got the skills, and the plan for your networking, but where can you find opportunities to actually put them in to practice and build your network?


  1. In Person Events


Industry associations, business groups, networking events and anywhere people meet, are prime opportunities to network.  If you can target a group that fits your client demographic that’s great, but don't discount the opportunity to connect with other groups as well.  Groups of your peers, competitors, or other industries, can offer meaningful and valuable connections beyond just the purchase of your product or service.

  1. Get Online


Join conversations on social media sites such as LinkedIn or a business-related Twitter page. You can also join business organizations and attend their virtual events. Networking is one of the primary objectives of many groups, like the local chamber of commerce, industry groups and professional associations. 

  1. Volunteer


Volunteering with a business group is an especially good way to quickly make lots of new connections and offer value to others. But volunteering in any capacity is a fantastic, purpose driven, way to connect and expand your network. 

  1. Create your Own Group 


Can't find a group you want to join? Why not create your own group? You can start a non-profit organization or an informal group with a page on LinkedIn or Facebook.

If you want to really pour some rocket fuel on your network building, you can power up your networking by targeting "people people”. Especially those with large, active networks, relevant to your business.  These are the people that seem to know everyone and have a connection in every room. 


People with large, relevant networks can rocket your network into huge numbers very quickly. These super connectors are easy to spot, and you likely know a few already.  


Building a robust and far reaching network is their superpower so tap into it and grow yours as well.


You just never know who you might connect with and what opportunities they may open up for you, so it’s important to make networking a habit.  Build it into your schedule, so that you are consistently reaching out and connecting with new contacts and their networks, rather than binge networking once or twice a year.


The value that a strong network can add to your business is undeniable, and it’s a two-way street.  So, if you get stuck, just look for ways that you can serve your peers, and with that simple gesture, you are already networking in the best possible way. 


So now you have the tools – do you feel more confident about networking?  Are you going to commit to doing one thing this month to grow your network?  

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