Transcription of the Networking The Right Way episode of the podcast Doers Shakers Makers with Sierra Bailey.
[00:08] Do you dread the words networking event. Are you showing up, handing out cards, shaking hands, and then never seeing anyone ever again or are you nurturing relationships and showing up at every event? Today we’ll talk about the right way to network, how to effectively use your time meeting people, attending events, and what the point of it actually is. My name is Sierra Bailey. Welcome to Doers Shakers Makers, a podcast for go-getters to inspire you in your business and life. When I say the words networking event, what comes to mind? Perhaps a room filled with aggressive salespeople who give you their pitch, shove their cards in your hand and who you’ll hopefully never see again? That’s how so many people feel and why it has such a negative connotation, but it’s not the case if done right. Real networking is about finding ways to make other people more successful.
[01:05] At the heart of it, networking is about building relationships and a way to meet people who are outside of your immediate circle. So what is networking great for? Well, to be totally honest, networking is a great way to make friends as grownups because if you are over the age of 25 you’ve probably started to realize that if you move to a new city or you’re changing jobs or pivoting in any way, you’re going to need to meet people and you may not know where to start. So networking is wonderful as making those friends, but it is more than that. It’s about finding people that you can connect with that are also interested in growing in their career and professionally. Becoming better at what they’re doing, getting out there and meeting people that are engaged in what they’re doing and their communities and who want to be involved in things.
[01:59] One of the biggest things that I started networking for many years ago was because I worked for myself and felt very isolated. So networking was really a way that made it, that I could get out there and be around other people. And sure I had friends and I would go out and I, you know, would see people, but I was not necessarily being around people who wanted to continuously be improving themselves, who wanted to talk about work. And that’s a lot of it. I love to talk about work and a lot of times if you’re in a social setting that is not looked that great upon. So I think of networking as the place where I get to go and hang out with people that are fine talking about work. Although of course, we do talk about other things. So the second time that I really enjoyed networking and understood its value was when I moved and knew, maybe one or two people in the city.
[02:49] Networking was the way that when I arrived here I found people that at least were doing what I was doing. It took a while to branch out and you know, kind of feel where I felt that I would fit in. But I started by just simply, at the time I was in the handmade world, and I simply looked for events that would draw in handmade people where we all wanted to talk about things. So that is a fantastic way if you have just arrived in a new place for you to get out there and meet some people. The next time that I felt that networking was incredibly valuable is when I pivoted and made a career change. One, because it got me out there meeting new people in that career, but more importantly because it really gave me a chance to talk to people about things.
[03:32] So I was able to bounce new ideas off of people and get some very valuable feedback kind of in the direction that I wanted to go to, which also brings another benefit of networking, which is mentoring. So you can absolutely find fabulous mentors through networking and especially if you’re in a change of either growth or a pivot in your career. It’s fantastic to be able to access people who are kind of where you’re trying to go. You can talk to them about it of what it’s really like. So maybe you don’t even want to be in that field, but you would have a chance to find out more from the people that are in it through networking. Also, of course, talking to people about their own career paths. That’s a great way. And to bounce ideas off of people who may be your target audience and get some real feedback.
[04:17] And if they think that your idea js not anything they would ever use, then you’re looking at them going, okay, if you’re the person I thought would use this and you can’t find a use for it, perhaps I’m not going in a good direction with this idea. So these are all things that networking is great for. Now, what is networking not great for? Networking, as I alluded to in the beginning, is not a place to show up, pitch and vanish. Ah, hint: no one will remember you if you show up, shove your card in their hand and never see them again. And more importantly, they’re gonna probably throw your card in the garbage because there was no connection made. Why should they ever use you for anything? Another thing that networking is not is it’s not a dating pool. People are not going there to date people.
[04:58] What else is networking not? It’s not a place to join simply to get your name and information and photo listed on their website. If you’re going to join a networking group, that I’ll talk about in a moment, you need to participate in the group, not just join all of the groups in your town so that you feel like you are listed on everybody’s rolodexes. It really won’t do you very good because people don’t go through the site looking just for a job description. They actually are looking for, oh I remember this person, I see them every week. That’s the kind of thing that you are looking for with networking, not a one and done. Then how do you make the most of networking? What is the right way to network? I always say you have to date your networking groups and I know I just said it’s not a dating pool but you are dating the group, not individuals in the group.
[05:45] You need to show up at them and to find out how you feel when you walk into that room of people. There is, I think it was the second group that I went into last year, I walked into that room and felt instantly at home and like I wanted to be there every single week. So every single week I am there and I love being there. So you should be joining groups that you love being part of, not that you dread. If you walk in and you’re like, oh, I do not want to talk to these people. I don’t care how perfect the association is for you. Don’t join that group. You won’t want to participate. You’ll dread going every time and people will be able to feel that you don’t want to be there. That is not the place that you will form relationships. So where do you find these groups?
[06:27] Well, Google, Facebook, some are on Meetup, but Meetup charges now to use it. So a lot of groups that are nonprofits have backed off of using Meetup and some are on Eventbrite, but not as much. I would say most groups are really focusing on Facebook events and on making sure the SEO of their website is going well. The really best way to find out about networking groups is word of mouth and to get word of mouth about networking groups. You usually want to go to a networking group, find one on Facebook that looks interesting, go to the group and then ask people where they go. One of my favorite things to do is to play networking group matchmaker. Every time I have a one-on-one, one of the questions I always ask people is, where else are you networking? Are you looking for places to go?
[07:07] Because I’m really involved in a lot of groups and I would love to help you figure out where you would enjoy going. And what makes people enjoy going to things? Of course, it’s that feeling I talked about that makes you feel like you fit in with the room, but it also is making sure that the people in the room are the people that you’re trying to network with. So for example, if you’re owning a business or you’re in sales, you’re going to be wanting to go to groups that usually have to do with a lot of that demographic. But if you are, let’s say a vice president in a corporation, you’re not going to enjoy that group as much. You may, but you probably want to be around other people who are running corporations so that you do have things that you can have relevant. That you want to be able to talk to people about things.
[07:52] You’re not thinking of a networking group as a place to go to pitch and sell. You’re thinking of a networking group as a place to be a member of, that you will have that network of people and then they will actually recommend you to other people. So it’s not about doing business with the people in the group, although that happens. It really is about finding people that you want to grow and learn with who will, in turn, recommend you to people. And that’s another thing, networking groups range. So I am part of ones that just get together and chat once a month and network. I’m part of ones that get together and have, let’s say a mastermind group in it. I’m part of ones that have a meal and listen to a speaker every time. There are many different varieties of networking so you can mix and match.
[08:37] You can go to many, but you absolutely want to make sure that whatever is happening at that one is something that you enjoy. I also want to point out that when you’re looking to find networking groups, check associations within your industry, look at industry publications and trade publications. They’ll talk about them. Is there a big conference that goes on that you are part of? They often will have groups that are in each individual city, especially if you live in, let’s say one of the top 20 cities in the United States. The conferences usually have started because they have a group and then they put on the conferences that all of the groups go together. For example, NSA, the National Speakers Association has a huge conference and most major cities also have a chapter of NSA that you would join and be part of and then you could also go to the conference.
[09:24] So if you are a speaker, you would want to look for the different speaking associations to network with. A lot of people think that you’re supposed to network with your industry and then be done. Like I said, I’m part of many, so I like to network with more than just the associations that I participate in. For me are the Women Communicators of Austin, but I am in more than just that group. I also want to mention alternate networking things as well. So that’s like joining a golf club or a country club. Volunteering on a nonprofit board, which I actually have done for just as long as I’ve networked. I’ve always volunteered on nonprofit boards and that has been fantastic for me as a networking way as well. Being part of athletic groups. Really any group that attracts professionals that meets either weekly or monthly are great places for you to network.
[10:18] They do not have to be something that is set up as a traditional networking group. You can absolutely form a network through other ways, but some people really like to have it a little more formalized for them so they know that when they’re joining what the purpose is. So what do you do when you go to a networking event? Well, you should aim to make two to three connections. The good groups will have greeters to make you feel welcome and to kind of steer you over to somebody who you may enjoy, but try to make two to three one-on-one coffee dates or maybe do like a walk and talk rather than sit down and have coffee. Schedule them on the spot. Or, make sure you exchange cards and follow up with them within a couple of days. A good tip is if you see two people talking, don’t interrupt because a lot of these groups people meet every week and they could be having a personal conversation about something.
[11:07] Usually, if you see a cluster of three or more people walk right up and be a part of it, but two people, that conversation often is a little bit more intimate. Or find another solo person standing around. Don’t be shy. Everyone is there for the same reason. And don’t latch onto 1 person and follow them around for the rest of the day. That’s kind of weird too. We’ve already talked about, you should not just walk around, shove your card into people’s hands and walk off. If somebody wants your card, you’ll be prompted for it. You’ll know, it will come up organically in the conversation. Oh, we should exchange cards. Or they’ll say something about wanting to reach out to you. Oh, let me give you my card. That’s it. Do not give somebody your card unless it’s prompted and it seems very organic. They will just throw it out otherwise.
[11:48] Another thing to remember is that a lot of networking groups and people get really freaked out if they don’t realize that it’s coming, but they have a chance for everyone in the room to go around and give a very brief 30-second elevator pitch. So be prepared for that. Don’t be nervous. Nobody’s going to judge you. If you mess up, laugh it off. Everybody will laugh with you. They want you to feel warm and welcome. Nobody is going to mock you or make fun of you, and if they do, never go back to that group. That’s not your group. But do have a very brief, one to two sentence maximum, elevator pitch because the second you start getting nervous and going on and on and on, everybody’s rolling their eyes and doesn’t want to talk to you. That’s just the reality of the groups. They’re not judging you.
[12:26] They’re just feeling like you’re not respecting the group dynamic. But be polite, be courteous, be appropriately dressed. Before I go to a new group, I always look on their website or their Facebook page to see what everybody is wearing so that I don’t show up either very overdressed or very underdressed. To err on the side of caution, Business casual always works. A great tip is before you are going to these events, look at the RSVP list. This is usually available on the website, perhaps on the Facebook page, perhaps on an event site. See who’s going and identify the people who you want to meet. Do a little research on them. Seeking them out is sometimes an easier way than just walking into a room cold and not knowing where to go or who to talk to. If at least you have people that you know you’re looking for, that gives you something to do.
[13:09] You’re kind of looking for those people. You don’t have to let them know that you researched. You know you can still act surprised. Don’t be creepy. But you definitely can have an opportunity to say, oh, I know this person is going to be there. I’m really interested in what they do or I’ve been wanting to meet them and you can make it your mission to have a connection with them. If it is an evening activity, don’t get drunk. That’s never a good look for anybody in a professional capacity. Don’t gossip. Don’t treat those under you poorly. If they do not have a status as high as yours in business, you don’t want to be rude. Don’t say anything really about politics or religion that you would not say in an office or a meeting. Remember that when you’re networking as casual and relaxed as it seems, it’s still a professional event and you don’t want to tarnish your reputation by saying something that offends somebody.
[13:57] I also would really just like to add that, please do not wear too much perfume or cologne. It’s really tough when there’s a lot of smells going on. When you hug somebody in there cologne rubs off on you, it’s gross. So be cautious and think about when you’re spraying that on, you’re not going out on a date, you are going to a business scenario. But in general, relax, be yourself and just try to make the most out of the evening or the morning or whatever you’re going to while you’re there. So now you’ve gone to the networking event. You have mingled politely. You have introduced yourself to two to three people. What do you do after? Well, you’re going to follow up with those two to three contacts. You’re going to connect with them on LinkedIn. And really if anybody has given you their business card, log that in your database and make sure that you connect with them on LinkedIn.
[14:44] However, do not add them to your mailing list unless you have explicit permission from them to do that or that is spam. You’re going to have your one on ones with people. You’re going to ask them what you can do for them. You’re going to see what you are able to provide them with information wise or who you can connect them to. They will ask that of you. Have something to ask of them. Who do you think I should meet? Oh is there a group you think I should join? You’re really going to continue to nurture the relationship so you’re not going to have coffee with them once and never talk to them again. Unless you didn’t click it and then you can do that. That’s fine. It’s kind of like dating, but if you did click, you’re going to follow up on anything you said you’d do for them.
[15:21] Well, do that either way. If they ask to be introduced to somebody, make sure you send that introduction. Whatever you said you would do, do it does not have to be that day, but do it within a week and then have a monthly phone call or an email until you become friendlier and then make sure that you have a quarterly coffee or meal or walk with them. Monthly is too overwhelming. Nobody wants that. Quarterly is kind of Nice. Nurture. Make that connection. Connect with them on social media, wish them a happy birthday. You want to be nurturing your network. You are not trying to just add people to a database and spam them. This is about building connections with people and helping them be more successful. If you liked the group that you went to, join! Show up as much as you can. Weekly is ideal.
[16:04] If they meet weekly, you should try to be there. Join a committee. Networking groups are usually run by boards. It helps you get seen, you meet everybody and start to understand how everything works and if you enjoy the group it really helps that group thrive and continue. I am one of those people that likes to join committees and boards and as long as you set up a system for yourself to participate and are realistic about how much time you can give and they’re realistic about how much time it takes, you can participate in a few of these and it will not take much time out of your schedule. I will admit that this can get a little out of hand as I am on the leadership of four boards and not on all boards. I’m on the committee of two and sometimes that can be overwhelming with all of the volunteering that I do, but it is okay.
[16:48] It works. The most work I actually do is the board I run for a volunteer organization, so it’s not by any means from any of these networking groups. They take maybe one to two hours a month in addition to attending the event. So it’s not a big deal. I, due to my marketing expertise, end up doing social media for most of them. So what else am I members of? I’m part of these four weekly groups that I’m involved in leadership wise. I actually co-host a monthly group now and I regularly attend about four to six of the monthly ones. Some of these groups are paid, some are free. You’ll find that as you start to look around and I will say that the larger the amount to join, the more often the members tend to attend. So look around, see what you’re liking, join a few.
[17:32] I usually, maybe I’m part of five weekly ones, I think I’m part, I don’t know. I’m part of a lot. I am in an industry right now where it is very important that I get a lot of referrals and get in front of a lot of people. So that is why I am doing that. If you’re in a different situation, it will be different for you. Take on what you can handle and find ones who’d like to join. My problem is every time I go visit one, I end up joining. So why is networking so important to business? Because people do business with people they know and like. And as I said in the beginning, real networking is about finding ways to make other people more successful. Don’t keep score. The key is generosity. It’s all about the trust and connections. And the people you network with will recommend you to their network.
[18:14] So the whole point of all of this and why it’s so important is because you’re meeting people who will start to trust you and recommend you. So it will benefit your business greatly, but you should be aiming to benefit their business greatly and it will come back to you. But like I said, don’t keep score. The key is generosity. So when you’re in these groups, when you’re going to these events, let your passion shine. Be Loud and proud about who you are. Be Transparent. Don’t be somebody that you’re not. If you’re excitable like I am, use exclamation points in your conversation. People will enjoy it. Your personality is your personal brand, so don’t try to be somebody that you’re not. Remember that business is built on relationships. Networking is still one of the best ways to connect and nurture these relationships and to meet other people who are looking to do the same, so don’t be so afraid of it.
[19:02] There are such great benefits of it. Get out there, start networking. Once you start, I bet you’ll love it. Join the right groups and that will help. But hopefully, you’re now inspired to get out there and at least try and visit a few. If you were inspired today, please reach out to me [email protected], you’ll find that in the show notes. Or find me on LinkedIn or Facebook to connect. And speaking of Facebook, you should join the Doers Shakers Makers Facebook group. It’s free and it’s actually a great place to network online and I hope I will see you there. But thank you for joining me today. My name is Sierra Bailey, and this is Doers Shakers Makers, a podcast for go-getters. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to the podcast. And if you’re listening with Apple podcast by reviewing and leaving a simple sentence like, “Hey, love the podcast” and some stars, it really helps me get found. But reviews help me get found most of all, I appreciate if you do that. But I’ll be back next Monday to keep you inspired and get you doing, shaking and making.
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