I recently started a tech company, I’m trying to get some momentum behind it. I know it’s important to network, but I don’t really enjoy it. I feel like it’s so forced and awkward, and I never have much luck when I go to networking events. Do you think networking is important, and do you have any tips on what I can do to make it a better and more productive experience?
Not a Fan of Networking
Dear Not a Fan of Networking,
I feel your pain! I do think that networking is important, but I think that most people approach it ineffectively. Relationships are vital to building your business, but the more you force it, the less genuine they will be. Most people approach networking thinking that the more people they know, the better. But that’s just not true. As the saying goes, it’s about the quality of the relationships, not the quantity. So don’t put pressure on yourself to think that you need to collect contacts. If you’re not making a real connection with them, then they’re less likely to be an asset to your business.
First, start by attending events that you enjoy, regardless of whether or not they’re labeled “networking” events. You never know where the right connection will be, and it’s not always where we think it is. I always tell my clients they should never “should” themselves. What I mean by that is if you’re thinking that you “should” attend an event to meet people, and you genuinely don’t want to be there, then don’t go to the event. It’s not likely going to result in making the connections you need. Place yourself in environments you truly enjoy, and you’re likely to meet like-minded people.
Second, practice talking about yourself. It likely feels forced right now because you’re new at the process. The more you tell people what you do, the easier it will become. And don’t be afraid to stumble through it a couple of times. We often put pressure on ourselves to come off as polished even when we’re just starting out. You’ll get into a rhythm if you keep it up.
Finally, a good way to ease into it is to flip the conversation. If you’re feeling awkward at an event, start out by asking others what they do. Turn the focus off of yourself for a while, and I’m sure it’ll help you break the ice.
Remember, it’s not networking that’s so vital; it’s building relationships. That can happen anywhere at any time. Keep an open mind and stay engaged in events you enjoy, and I’m sure you’ll meet the people who you need to grow your business.
Holly Howard runs Ask Holly How, a small business consulting company based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that works with a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to retail to art studios and pretty much everything in between. Her clients report increased income and profit, decreased expenses and a significantly better quality of life. Holly heads up the Small Business Book Club at McNally Jackson Books.
Want valuable insight into how to grow your business? Holly hosts free 30 minute strategy sessions at The Yard in Williamsburg. Email her to set up a time firstname.lastname@example.org or to ask a question for the next Ask Holly How.