By Gilda Bonanno
As a small business owner, networking is a crucial part of your business development. Whether you are attending a networking event, an industry association meeting or a client meeting, it’s important that you are comfortable talking about your business.
The following 5 myths about small business networking can interfere with your ability to be effective:
1. I have to go to every networking event
As a small business owner, you wear many hats, so the time spent networking is time not spent doing other business-related tasks. Only attend a networking event if it meets your criteria of target market or potential clients, for example. And only attend if you can muster the required positive energy and enthusiasm to talk about your business.
2. I can just show up and “wing” it
If you are unprepared, you may stumble over your own name and what your business does, or you may ramble on and confuse the listener. Prepare a clear, concise and coherent message about yourself and your business that is relevant to the people who might be there. Decide what you will – and will not – share ahead of time, so you don’t get caught off-guard and lose your focus. Practice saying your introduction with a smile and while making eye contact.
3. No one wants to talk to me
Based on an informal survey of the people who attend my networking workshops, many people feel like no one wants to talk to them and they don’t know anyone in the room. So it’s a safe assumption that other people at your event feel alone and are uncomfortable with networking, too.
Rather than trying to break into a noisy group of four or five people, approach someone who is standing alone. If she is feeling as uncomfortable as you are, she will appreciate your outreach. And if she was just taking a break to check email, no harm done.
4. My goal is to collect as many business cards as possible
There is no point collecting a lot of business cards that will just collect dust on your desk. While it would be impolite to refuse a card that is offered to you, you don’t have to follow up if you don’t think it’s worth your time to build a professional relationship with that person. And remember that following up will take time, so be sure to schedule it in your calendar.
5. My goal is to hand out as many business cards as possible
I once was given a business card by a small business owner at a networking event while I was in the bathroom washing my hands. She walked in, smiled, put it next to the sink (since my hands were wet) and left the room. You can guess what I did with it; I threw it out.
The goal is not to hand out as many business cards as possible. You want to give cards to someone you’ve actually had a conversation with, who might be a good prospect or can connect you to others. If you don’t want to wait until someone asks for your card, at least ask permission to give them your card.
Exposing these myths about small business networking will help you become a more successful networker. You can make networking work for you to craft a consistent, clear brand and build connections with your ideal clients.
© Gilda Bonanno LLC - Gilda Bonanno serves as a trusted advisor to executives and entrepreneurs to transform their communication, presentation and leadership skills. She has worked with companies on 4 continents, from Chicago to Shanghai and Rio to Rome. The instructional videos on her YouTube channel have received over 2 million views and her e-newsletter has reached subscribers in over 45 countries since 2008. For other articles or to receive Gilda's e-newsletter, visit www.gildabonanno.com