All of us have heard and read statements such as, ‘Networking is a powerful tool for everyone in business,’ or ‘Work the room, don’t let it work you’. But how many of us have truly benefited from this, or have actually tried networking professionally?
Public speaking and networking can be daunting and intimidating, especially if one is an introvert. Believe me, I can empathize. I have had to put significant effort into building my communication and networking skills over time.
Currently working on my fifth start-up, I have learnt to leverage the connections I have made, through networking, into future paying clients and as a gateway to opportunities that otherwise seemed far-fetched.
My personal experience of transitioning into the position of Incubator Portfolio Manager at Ilm Ideas 2 came about through the personal connections I had made at networking events. Having built a meaningful professional relationship gave me an advantage over other applicants, and enabled me to assist other start-ups across the country through this role, all while being able to continue working on my own start-up as well.
Here are some of the key lessons I’ve learned:
- Listen to the other person and pay attention to what they are trying to accomplish or what their company actually does. Every entrepreneur is passionate about their cause, and can sense when someone else is not interested.
- Browse through the attendee list, especially if there’s a keynote speaker or chief guest. Do your homework on them, go through their LinkedIn profile, company website, and social media pages – it will give you more to talk about and help to connect with them better.
- Make the conversations personal. Yes, giving a 15-second elevator pitch always helps to grasp another person’s attention, but if the conversation seems like a script, the other person will not feel connected and might want to end the conversation at the first opportunity.
- Always keep more business cards with you than you think you will need. Not having your business cards with you can lead to missing out on very important opportunities.
- Always follow up with the individuals you met and clicked with, through an email or adding them on LinkedIn, or other social media sites. You never know how useful that connection may be later on.
I truly believe in the phrase, “your network is your net worth,” because, in my experience, it has enabled me to connect with different individuals across various industries, and be a liaison between different start-ups, mentors and other professionals – it has put me in a position to be able to assist others in many ways, and also reach out for assistance when I need it.
So here’s my advice: muster the strength and courage, and go talk to people. It will be worth it in the end, as this will help polish your networking skills and overcome any fear of public speaking. At the end of the day, the most important skill you will gain is the ability to sell your services or that of your start-up!