Networking. The word is so cold, business-like, unappealing. When I first started on my journey of opening Woolf Works I dragged myself out to a few different networking sessions, mumbled my way through them and then left early. I hated the awkwardness, the stumbling way I’d introduce myself, the terrible faux pas I would make and the rummaging for a business card while trying to balance a coffee cup and pastry – cringeworthy!
This year, something strange has happened. I’ve come to (shock horror) enjoy networking! I look forward to the interesting people I might meet and I always look forward to telling my story and describing my business. So what has changed in the time from when I first started out, to now? I guess I have realised a few things:
1. Firstly – EVERYONE feels awkward and weird. Honestly. Meeting strangers is awkward and weird. So – just let it go. Move on. What’s wrong with awkward and weird sometimes? We need a bit of discomfort to know we are pushing our own limits, exploring new territory. As well as awkward and weird, its also a little bit exciting isn’t it?
2. Before you go to your next networking session, work out the best way to introduce your business. You need to remember one opening sentence then three Punch Words that you want the other person to remember. My punch words are Calm, Productive, Community. For example, I say:
Hi there, I’m Michaela and I run a women’s coworking space on Joo Chiat Rd called Woolf Works.
Its a lovely, calm workspace where women can work productively amongst a community of like-minded women.
Having those punch words helps me stay focused on what I want to say. If I have longer then I can go deeper into each part but I have the three parts (the space – calm; the results of being in the space – productive; the people – community) that I can always tie it together with.
What are your three punch words? What do you want that person that you meet to remember about you and your business?
3. Interrupting a group: your worse nightmare? You are at a networking session, its going well when suddenly the person you were chatting to excuses herself to the bathroom and you are left on your own staring around at everyone else already immersed in conversation in small groups.
Just one simple sentence will get you in: “Excuse me, mind if I join you?”
Really its that simple – everyone knows it sucks to introduce yourself to the group and nine times out of ten will be very welcoming. Apologise for interrupting, introduce yourself quickly to everyone and the conversation will begin to flow again.
4. Go looking for one or two great connections, not a bunch of people you have exchanged cards with. Quality over Quantity – it’s old networking advice but is so true. Go in depth with the people you meet – ask questions, smile, make lots of eye contact, find common connections. People respond to questions; it feels nice to have someone so interested in you. That woman that you spend twenty minutes chatting about your shared love of tennis is the one who will remember you, refer business to you and be much more valuable than the ten people you spent two minutes with.
5. Be practical. Wear comfortable shoes. As good as those pastries look, trying to eat one while balancing a tea cup, business cards and purse is never going to be elegant so how about waiting till you have a free moment? Keep your cards somewhere easy to reach. Don’t wear that bra that always digs into your ribcage.
6. Lastly, practice makes perfect. Really – its all about doing it again and again. And again.
My hands no longer shake, I can maintain eye contact and breaking into groups of strangers is one of those necessary evils that I don’t mind doing if I have to. The deep connections with really interesting women that I have formed through networking groups has been crucial for my business to succeed.
My top two women’s networking groups in Singapore?
What are your top networking tips?
What do you NOT enjoy about networking?