Networking can be hard. What to say to a new face you’d love to collaborate with? How to present your best self? If the idea scares you, we’ve spoken to the pros about how to be more confident when networking. And it’s important when building a business. Studies show that women’s networks are likely to be weaker than their male counterparts. Studies also reveal that women are not as well equipped to leverage their existing networks. But with this guide, you’re not going to be a statistic! Heed these tips and step into the room with your best foot forward.
Meet The Experts
Get confident when networking
This can be a hard one to achieve, but if you believe in your idea, there’s no reason not to be confident about your business. “I believe that if you’re truly passionate about what you do, you should have the confidence to convert this into business and sales,” says Thomas. Afraid of failure? Lean into it, says Thomas. “Don’t be afraid to mess up, it’s how you learn,” Thomas explains. “I have also always believed in surrounding myself with pros in their field without expecting myself to know absolutely everything there is to know about every facet of my line of business.” Not sure about marketing yourself on social media? Find someone who knows, advises Thomas.
Identify your comfort zone
“With networking comes confidence and with confidence comes a sense of self-awareness,” explains Leonard. “Identify what you’re passionate about, what you’re good at, and what you’re not good at. Identify ways you feel comfortable when networking. My best friend and I are complete opposites – I’d happily work a room, and she would happily have a one-on-one chat with someone. If you know what makes you feel comfortable, you will be able to network.”
Define your goals
Going into a crowded room with no idea of what you’re trying to achieve will create overwhelm. But pinpointing your goals can make things easier. “Determine what you want to achieve through networking. Are you looking for sales avenue opportunities, seeking mentorship, or trying to expand your professional circle?” says Thomas. “Clarifying your goals will help you focus your efforts.”
Leonard’s business is the business of people, as a PR executive. And her secret sauce to being confident when networking is authenticity. “Build authentic relationships. I say authentic because it’s vital,” says Leonard. “We have the WORLD at our fingertips. Be authentic, build relationships, engage with others, listen, and take part,” Leonard says. “Be present and remember what people say so you can ask them about it again at a later stage. If you don’t have a good memory, get paper and a pen.”
Looking for something specific? Reach out for it. “Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you; take the initiative to reach out to people,” says Thomas. “Attend networking events, join relevant online communities, and engage with professionals in your field.”
“Offer your knowledge, skills, or assistance whenever possible, even if for free,” says Thomas. “Being helpful and generous can leave a lasting impression on others, and often results in paid for opportunities down the line.”
Creating lasting relationships goes way further than a once-off meet. To cement your presence, follow up. “After making connections, follow up with a message or email to express your appreciation and keep the conversation going,” says Thomas.