As an entrepreneur, networking is essential to the growth of your personal and professional brand. It is like being your own personal billboard!
It isn’t just about attending events – it’s about establishing and forming relationships and connections with people who can give you valuable feedback and support when needed. It is great for building business contacts, discovering potential clients and customers, making connections with others in your industry and promoting your personal brand.
While it may seem so, networking is also not only about talking about who you are, what you do and what you can offer others. It is about listening to what others have to say to determine the success of your potential relationship.
Here are some tips on how to become a successful networker.
Don’t be afraid to self-promote at networking events
Networking is a great marketing tool. Attending a networking event provides you with a room full of influential people in your industry. By simply talking to these people, you are exposed to potential clients or customers.
For many entrepreneurs, the idea of self-promotion is most often linked to being slimy and self-centred.
However, there is nothing wrong with being confident about your expertise. Start telling your story – the struggles and the successes as people will more likely resonate with your story than your annual turnover and your bestselling product.
Networking isn’t about collecting as many business cards as possible. It is about meeting and building a relationship with people who can offer you valuable information and knowledge.
At a networking event, don’t wait for someone to approach you. You can take control by approaching a group of people as it is often easier to join a conversation than starting one. The more people who are aware of you and your brand, means the more people who will make contact when the need arise.
You can never have too many contacts
So who should you network with? From a business development perspective, it is a good idea to network with potential clients. It is also a good idea to introduce yourself to other experts in your industry as they can offer you valuable advice and information. Don’t forget about those in fields that deal with the same clients you do, they could prove to be great referrers.
Being an entrepreneur can be an isolating and stressful experience, but when networking you learn so much about different businesses, what is currently happening in the business community and you are given the opportunity to share your experiences.
Plus, there is no such thing as having too many contacts.
Dos and Don’ts of networking
While it is one of the most cost-effective marketing tool there are many dos and don’ts that comes with networking. They are:
Have a descriptive elevator statement prepared
Bring business cards but hand out with care
Introduce yourself and start conversations with others
Keep moving around the room; don’t just speak to one person
Attend events with a personal friend
Look around the room when talking to someone
Oversell – people are there to get to know you
Say you will keep in touch but not bother.
How to become a successful networker
Going alone is the key to good networking. By taking someone with you to a networking event, you are more likely to use that time to catch up instead of networking with important people.
Successful networkers don’t let the relationship end at the end of the event. Make sure that relationships extend past the event and you connect with the people you’ve met through their social media like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.
Networking is one of the easiest and effective ways of increasing profile and acquiring new business and reaching hundreds of potential clients.
Eboni K. Williams and Cheslie Kryst have a lot in common, as Iman Oubou Founder & CEO of SWAAY as well as host of the Women Who Swaay podcast puts it, "They're both badass attorneys, they're both from North Carolina and they've both competed in the Miss North Carolina USA pageants." And they also both took over our podcast on the most recent episode, straight from the headquarters of the Miss Universe Organization!
Cheslie is a successful licensed attorney who also happens to be the reigning Miss USA 2019, with plans to represent our country in the upcoming Miss Universe competition. Not only is she at the height of her pageant power, but she is using the notoriety to create positive change for all of the women in her life, much like her role model Eboni K. Williams. Williams is a journalist, author, attorney and speaker; from her long history as a pageant queen she has risen through the ranks of male dominated industries from law-firms to Fox News. All throughout her journey she has persevered with intelligence, tenacity and poise. Lucky enough for us, she has kindly put her reporting skills to use and got candid with Ms. Kryst about supporting their fellow women, the current state of race in America and their history together as pageant compatriots. All of these topics are incredibly close to their hearts as powerful black women using their influence to create a better future for all women in America.
Oh and, as previously stated, both are complete and utter badasses.
During their podcast takeover they talked about it all, from pageants to politics. It's clear that both of these women are motivated by an altruistic spirit and are strong supporters of #womensupportingwomen. Eboni even read a passage from her book, Pretty Powerful: Appearance, Substance, and Success, in which she outlines how her own career trajectory was so positively affected by the incredible women who mentored her in different stages of her life. She completely shuts down the idea of the "woman on woman teardown," calling it a "pitiful dynamic" tied to the "long and very hurtful history of women." This idea that in order to compete for a spot in the old boy's club, women must first fight off their own gender is not only reductive but it also supports an outdated social structure that was built to greatly favor male success. Throughout history women have been encouraged to look at one another as competition, one more obstacle to pass by. However, all that has managed to do is to pit us against each other, fighting for the few meager seats at the table allowed for women while we ignore the real problem. The problem isn't about the lack of seats allotted for women; the problem is that men are still the ones making the seating arrangements, and it's time for that to change, something that both Cheslie and Eboni understand well.
Race is another topic that is incredibly important to both of these women, and they have quite the in-depth discussion on it during this podcast. Cheslie, who is biracial and self-identifies as black, laid out her point of view on race. She voiced her frustrations for never feeling like she had her own box to tick, being stuck to decide between "black, white, or other" in standardized situations like the SATs. Existing as someone stuck between two cultures has been incredibly challenging, and though she found some solace in the black community, she felt less welcomed by her white peers. Self-identifying as black is something that has allowed her more agency in regards to her own identity, and though she still faces difficulties she realizes how important it is to be a confident black woman in the esteemed position she is currently in. Both Cheslie and Eboni seem to bond over the idea that no matter the successes, they both revel in the victories of their fellow women of color. Each of them is motivated to see more women of color in powerful, visible positions to inspire future generations. It's not about their own success; it's about respect and renown for any and all women of color.
I may have just provided the highlight reel, but the full conversation shared between Cheslie and Eboni on the Women Who Swaay podcast is a must listen. These two women managed to make me laugh while restoring hope for a better America all within a half hour of listening time! Seriously, go get those headphones, right now. You will not regret it.