I have a confession to make: in 4 years of freelancing, I have never done any networking. I have bid for jobs, got work through friends and family, sub-contracted, and done my best to turn one-time clients into repeat customers, but I have never gone out and spoken to local businesses about my services.
But all that is about to change because tonight I am going to my first networking event, and I have to say, the thought make me nervous and excited in about equal parts. I am one of life’s introverts, socially awkward and happiest when I’m just getting on with the work. However, that work has to come from somewhere, and since one of the aims I have for my business this year is to work with more local clients, it’s about time I got out there and actually tried to meet some.
Since others may also be thinking about getting started with networking, I thought it might be useful to keep a diary to share my experiences as I start.
Tuesday 3rd May
Several weeks ago I joined the online community Aberdeen Business Network with a view to meeting other people in the local business community and start going to face-to-face networking events; from there I have my first event tonight.
Being somewhat nervous about everything from what to wear to what to say, I spent the weekend researching for advice on effective networking. I found advice on the first issue in several articles: be comfortable in what you’re wearing, even if that means you are over- or under-dressed.
Ask any of my friends, and they will tell you they have never seen me in a suit or office attire, and the last time I wore a skirt or dress was at my sister’s wedding several years ago; my idea of comfortable clothing is jeans and a t-shirt, so tonight I am wearing jeans. I will be wearing a smarter top than usual and, of course, a little bit of make-up, and I will even be swapping my beloved trainers for shoes, but I will still be comfortable in that. Phew, one less thing to worry about!
Now, what to say… I’ve heard of ‘elevator pitches’, but I’ve never used one and I don’t have a little speech made up. To be honest, part of me thinks that having a little pre-made speech to draw in potential clients seems a bit cheesy, even a little pushy. What’s wrong with just having a conversation? The other part of me, however, thinks that it could be a useful tool in avoiding awkward silences when you panic and can’t think of anything pertinent to say.
Today I read this post about forming a 30 second elevator pitch; the advice and how-to section seem good, so I’ll probably give it a try. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to work something out before this evening, so I’ll have to rely on conversation. Mostly though, I’ll be listening to those I meet: I want to learn about them, their businesses, and how they pitch their services.
Wednesday 4th May
I have completely changed my mind about elevator pitches! I get nervous about speaking in front of groups of people, in front of strangers… pretty much all forms of public speaking. At the start of the meeting everyone took turns to introduce themselves and what they do, and, of course, I uhmmed and ahhed too much for my liking. I like to think that I’m fairly intelligent and articulate, but sometimes I don’t think that comes across because I lack confidence. Had I prepared a little speech, I might have fared better just by not having that awkward oh-no-my-mind’s-gone-completely-blank moment the instant I’m expected to say something. I want to be able to talk about myself and my business with confidence, so I have now set myself the task of creating an elevator pitch.
Despite the attack of nerves, I did actually have fun last night. It didn’t feel like a formal gathering of business-people, instead it was like having a coffee and a catch-up with friends. I met a lovely group of people who were very friendly and welcoming, and the two guest speakers were great. I enjoyed listening to the chat and even participated a little – to sit quietly in the corner would defeat the purpose of going, after all – and I’m determined to be more confident and outgoing at the next meeting.
Yes, I’m going again, in fact I’m very much looking forward to it.
Until then, and the next installment of this series, my advice to anyone thinking about networking would be: don’t be scared and just go for it!
Image credits: SXC (coffee)
Never miss a post
Enter your details to get my latest content by email, including exclusive tips and offers, just for subscribers.