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.
"There are no good men out there," yet another woman my age declared. At 50, I was freshly divorced after two decades of marriage and motherhood. My unhappy marriage had shattered my faith in men and romantic relationships. Based on my ex-husband's opinion of my sexual appeal, I was afraid my naked body would cause future lovers to run screaming from the room. Rather gleefully, I announced to my girlfriends that I was done with men, and sex, forever.
For the first year, I got tangled in my sheets alone every night, overjoyed to have the bed and my body to myself. I felt liberated by divorce—free to be me, skip showering, and make dinner for one. But it bothered me when women decried the scarcity of men, because I'd known so many good ones—college boyfriends, my brother, my best friend from business school, etc. The first of many naked truths gradually crept up on me: I was not going to find my juju again through self-help and yoga. The feminist in me didn't want to admit it, but going for too long without men was akin to starvation.
I didn't want another husband. But I needed men, a lot of them.
The universe signaled its approval by sending Mr. Blue Eyes to me at an airport. He was 29 and perhaps the sexiest man I'd ever kissed. Being with him convinced me, pretty decisively, that men were going to heal me, even though men had destroyed me many times before. I became the female incarnation of a divorced, clichéd older man: I bought a sports car, revamped my wardrobe, and took younger lovers. "I want five boyfriends," I told my best friend KC after that first tryst ended. "Sweet, cute, smart, nice. Enough that I won't get too attached to one." My message from the frontlines of divorce at 50 is that to restore your confidence as a woman, especially in the wake of a crushing breakup, try dating outside your comfort zone, expanding your dating pool to include partners you might never have considered before. It may not be the recipe for a lasting union, but in terms of rebuilding your self-esteem, it can work wonders.
The first thing I noticed—and liked—about dating younger men is that they didn't want to marry me or make babies with me. And I didn't want that either. Frankly, I didn't even want them to spend the night. Since I'd been 11, I'd been taught to seek out and value men who wanted commitment. To my surprise, I found it refreshing, even more authentic, to be valued not for my potential as a mate, but instead for my body, intelligence, life-experience and sexuality.
And the sex! I quickly realized that—warning, blanket stereotype coming—men under 40 are more straightforward and adventurous than older men, maybe since they were raised with the Internet. You hear so often about the scourge of crude, sexist online pornography; and I agree that the depersonalization of women as sexual playthings is deeply destructive to all genders. However, from sexting to foreplay, I found younger men uniquely enthusiastic about getting naked and enjoying sex. Every younger man found my most erotic zones faster than any man my age ever had, with a lack of hesitation men over 50 seemed unable to fathom.
Also, about my big fear of getting naked in front of a younger man? Completely unfounded. I started to shake when Airport Boy took off my sundress in our hotel room. Had he ever seen a woman my age nude? How could I stand to be skin-to-skin with a body far more perfect than mine? I had given birth to eight-pound, full-fucking-term babies. I'd nursed them, too, and at times by breasts looked (from my view at least) like wet paper towels. "You have a spectacular body," he told me instead, running his hand over the cellulite on my stomach that I despised. That night I learned that younger men who seek older women accept our physical flaws—they don't expect perfection in someone 20 years their senior. These men taught me to see my body through a positive, decidedly male lens, to focus on the pretty parts (and we all have them) rather than the flaws that we all have too, whether you're 19, 29 or 59.
I even found the pillow talk lighter, easier and more intellectually stimulating, because a younger man's world view differs so vastly from the pressures of my 20-something kids, annual colonoscopies, 401K balance and mortgage payments. They have simple financial problems, like "Can I borrow a few quarters for the parking meter outside?" or "Do you have any advice on consolidating my student loans?"
Everything feels simpler with younger men. Men under 40 seem less threatened by assertive women; they grew up with them. They like cheap beer instead of expensive wine. They don't snore (as much). Leftovers a 55-year-old would scoff at look good to them. Their erections NEVER last more than four hours. Their hard-ons end the old-fashioned way and 45 minutes later they are ready for more.
But what I enjoy most about younger men is not the sex, or the cliché that they make me feel young again—because they don't. Younger men make me feel old, and to my delight, I like that. I feel valuable around younger men, precisely because I am wiser and more experienced in life, love and between the sheets.
I know I'll never end up with one for good. The naked truth is we don't have enough in common to last. One recently put it exactly right when he told me, "I love this, but there's always gonna be a glass ceiling between us." That lack of permanence, the improbability of commitment and "forever," doesn't mean I can't pick up a tip or two about self-esteem, and enjoy the magic of human connection with younger men. And vice versa. The experience can enrich us both, making us better partners for people our own ages down the road.
*My viewpoint is from the perspective of a heterosexual woman, because I am one. But change the gender identification and/or sexual orientation to whatever works for you and let me know if the same advice holds true. Thank you.