Networking Skills: Sometimes it feels like you have them or not. Getting away at social gatherings is so natural for many people, while others struggle when they are forced to engage in conversations with strangers.
Networking can be especially overwhelming for small business teams, who usually do not have a safety net of their colleagues at networking events – or a big business name in their back pockets. Yet networking has obvious advantages that can help your business and your career. Not only does it broaden your network of contacts, it brings you new opportunities, advice and opinions. Put in a little practice, and networking makes you more visible and even helps to boost your self-confidence.
Next week is Dreamforce, the annual conference of Salesforce users and developers, and we often hear that it's hard for small businesses to connect among the tens of thousands of participants on the site. Here are seven tips for small business owners to use networking to your advantage – at Dreamforce and beyond.
Setting a goal
What will the success of networking be like for you? Maybe that is one or two solid contacts that you have liked to talk about and that you can not wait to see again in future events. Maybe it's a news of an opening job in a fast growing company. Or maybe you are learning about a new product or a new resource for your own small business. Whatever you want to do, spell it so that you can work on it.
Events nowadays often have a social component – such as a community portal or a Facebook page. Make friends and get to know people well in advance, so that you are ready for a face-to-face meeting during the event. Go ahead and put yourself there: Post a message to let others know that you will be attending the event and want to make new contacts. Chances are, there are many others looking to do the same.
Bring a winger
Bringing a friend or colleague to the event is an excellent stimulant of confidence. Not only is this another person you know in the room, but your friend may be able to use his relationships to make a presentation to someone else. Just be careful not to rely too much on your boyfriend; Otherwise, you will defeat the whole purpose of networking.
What problems and trends are regularly affecting your business or industry? Before attending an event, be sure to take a look at new ideas and give yourself some talking points. TED Talks, Sal Cats, and Industry Podcasts like How I've built this offer stimulating presentations designed to encourage ideas, innovation … and great discussions.
Look through, not until
Many people think of networking as presenting themselves to someone in a position of power – but these "upstairs" interactions are soon forgotten and will probably not get you anywhere. A better bet is to "network", or meet people in positions similar to yours. Share stories, find common points and form a link. These lasting links are more likely to help you on the road, and let's be honest: they are a lot more fun.
The most important aspect of any networked conversation is without doubt the authenticity. Be yourself and try to communicate with people about real things that make sense to you. There is no need to simulate until you do it ; Even a single new connection is one more than what you have come up with … and an authentic conversation will prove much more useful than simply indicating your name and your identifying information.
To train at the hour
Even if you do all of the above, you may not feel completely comfortable at a conference or event in the industry. But you can make the process less stressful by attending networking events on a regular basis. There is a reason why they say that the practice makes perfect so also try to redeploy your communication skills to the office; It's as easy as starting a conversation with a new colleague in the break room.
Start Now: network like a pro
Ready to network like a pro? Take a free Expo Expo pass and join us November 6-9 in San Francisco! You can not do it this year? Check out our other Salesforce Networking Events, live in a city near you.
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