By: Paige Wilhide
Three years ago, I made a decision to dive head-first into building my own business.
Naturally, as one does, I started researching various networking events in the city. The overwhelm that followed was paralyzing. And I suddenly felt my chronic FOMO flaring up.
There are so many places and ways to network in New York City: breakfast events, cocktail parties, lunch and learns, French cooking classes for retired NASA astronauts (obviously, I wouldn’t be attending that one). How does one choose?
I settled on an event that seemed both appropriate and well-attended: Rooftop Cocktails and Networking for Entrepreneurs. The event was free and included a complimentary cocktail. I had nothing to lose.
The massive line just to get to the elevator should have been the first hint that this “networking” event would be a total bust. Standing on a fancy NYC rooftop, I was lost in a massive sea of people. I didn’t know who to talk to, and the people I did talk to were an indication that this place was swarming with aggressive real estate brokers.
Later that night, as I poured a stack of business cards bigger than my fist into my recycling bin, I reevaluated my strategy.
Over the next three years, I would attend hundreds of networking events and meet thousands of people. I’ve built a profitable, successful, video marketing business with employees and clients I love BECAUSE of networking.
Here’s the five-step strategy I used to do it:
Find Your People. Just because you’re an entrepreneur doesn’t mean you should be networking with other entrepreneurs. I’m not a professional speaker, but I walked away from a National Speakers Association meeting with actual clients because they all need my services. Think about who needs your services. Be in front of them.
Interrupt. There’s nothing more awkward than wandering around trying to figure out who to talk to. But wanderers don’t make connections! Don’t be afraid to pop into a conversation with something like “don’t let me interrupt, keep talking.” Or just walk up confidently and start nodding and smiling.
Be Genuinely Interested! I don’t talk about myself. I actually hate talking about myself. I LOVE shifting the focus to the other person. I could listen to someone talk all day about what they do (and some days, I do…for a living). I am genuinely interested in what people have to say. I ask questions like “how did you get started with that?” and “who do you love to work with?”
Be a Giver. There’s an international networking group with the motto “givers gain”, and I follow that philosophy to the letter. If I can help someone by making an introduction, sharing an interesting article, or inviting them to an event, then I am making a positive impact on that person’s life and I’m instantly memorable to that person.
Follow Up. Follow Up. Follow Up. I can’t stress enough the importance of following up. Emails, phone calls, coffee dates, whatever. Talking to someone for 15 minutes does not mean you are a permanent fixture in their mental rolodex (is that reference obsolete yet?). Who are the people you had true synergy with? Get to know them on a deeper level.
Now that you have the tools to get out there and network, where do you go? Here’s how you can start your search:
- Find out where your favorite clients network.
- Ask your most connected friend about her favorite networking groups.
- Reach out to your Facebook network and ask about IRL networking groups.
Random Google searches can yield some very hit or miss opportunities, so start with people you know, like, and/or trust to steer you in the right direction. You will start to build a network and grow your business organically.
Paige Wilhide is committed to helping small businesses share their stories powerfully through video. She is the founder of Paige Media, a video marketing and production company that works with ONLY awesome people to have a TON of fun making incredible videos. Coming from a background in theatre, production, marketing, and sales, Paige knows what it takes to tell a great story. She’s traveled the world in search of beautiful stories. She has worked with big brands like Black & Decker, Comcast, and Under Armour to produce creative video content, but her real passion lies in helping small businesses and entrepreneurs grow their businesses with video. Paige Media is on a mission to make video more accessible for businesses. Find us at www.paigemedia.com